§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [10th November.] "That the Bill be now read a second time:"—
§ Question again proposed.
§ (2.30.) SIR ARTHUR HAYTER () Walsall
moved that the Bill be read a 460 second time this day three months. He desired, he said, to protest, in the first place, against the Bill being taken at all during this part of the Session, which was to be devoted to the Education Bill and the London Water Bill. In the second place, he thought he could easily prove that the Bill was not by any means an innocent or simple measure, but introduced great and far-reaching changes, which were not at all required at the present time. His great objection to the Bill was that it gave powers to the Secretary of State which, could already be exercised by Order in Council, and he could see no reason whatever why the Secretary of State should be so invested with exceptional powers. Moreover, the Bill was opposed to the territorial principle on which the Army system was based. The territorial principle had been adopted by Germany and Russia, and by the Japanese as well, and it had certainly proved very successful in our own case in the matter of recruiting. He did not propose to say much with regard to the Yeomanry part of the Bill, because there were many hon. Members opposite better acquainted with that organisation than he was who would state the objections to the way in which it was proposed to deal with the force.
He would ask the House to consider the first Clause of the Bill. It declared that for the purpose of forming Reserve divisions of the Militia and Yeomanry, the Sacretary of State might relax or dispense with any enactment relating to the training of those forces. But what was the use of putting that into the Bill. The Militia Act gave power to the King in Council to order from time to time that the annual training be extended to not more than fifty-six days in any one year, that the training of all or any part of the Militia be reduced or even dispensed with. Thus His Majesty already possessed the powers this Bill would give to the Secretary of State, and he could see no reason why they should be handed over to the Secretary of State.
It was quite possible he might wish to keep a great number of men on foot without any training whatsoever, and it was a well-known fact, especially with regard to cavalry soldiers, unless they were continually drilled they were of little use.
461 Next he came to a much more serious part of the Bill, the second part of Clause 1, which provided that any man in a Reserve division might be transferred from one corps of Militia or Yeomanry to another, so, however, that, a militiaman should not without his consent be transferred to a corps of another arm. That proposal absolutely set at naught the territorial system. It, meant that a Cornish militiaman must be transferred to a Northumberland Regiment or a Devonshire man to a Derbyshire Regiment. Why did militiamen desire to join a particular corps? Simply because they knew the non-commissioned officers and men, and they certainly would be very reluctant to go to quite another part of the country. The only alleviating feature of the proposal was, that a man should not be transferred without his consent to an entirely different branch of the Army, he would not, in fact, be liable to be converted from an infantryman into an artilleryman, or from an artilleryman into an engineer. This proposed transfer from one regiment to another was strictly guarded against by regulations made under the Militia Act of 1882, which provided that no Militiaman could be transferred from the corps he enlisted in without his consent. That regulation would become waste paper if this Bill were passed, and he believed, if such a power was given, that it would do very great injury to recruiting, for the men would not be able to depend on their engagements being kept. They would in fact become very shy of accepting service in the force under such conditions.
Now he came to Section 2, which applied Sections 3 and 4 of the Militia Act to the Yeomanry. There was no objection whatever in the case of Section 30 which merely provided that the Secretary of State might raise such a number of yeomen and militiamen as the House had already provided for. But Section 4 in his opinion reduced the Bill to absolute nonsense. As he had already pointed out, power was given under the first Section of the Bill to the Secretary of State to move men from one corps to another just as he pleased. But Section 4 of the Militia Act provided that no man should be so transferred 462 without his consent, and it was proposed to extend that provision to the Yeomanry. Why it was an absolute contradiction in terms of the second part of the Clause, and it ought to be deleted if the Bill was to become a permanent Act. Then under the last Section of the Bill a special service squadron of the Yeomanry, a sort of corps d'elite, was to be formed, which would be alone capable of serving broad in case of war. He thought that would be a very mischievous thing for the Yeomanry as a whole, and the Yeomanry were not likely to regard the formation of such a corps with anything but jealousy. It was creating a corps within a corps, and certainly to pay some men £5 to engage for foreign service, while others get nothing, would be a poor compliment to the latter. Again, it it would be a dangerous thing at the outbreak of a war to mix up these different country corps into one heterogeneous mass. He knew that the reason for the proposal was that the right hon. Gentleman wanted to find cavalry for his three last army corps. Would it not have been much better to say at once that he would raise a regular cavalry regiment, rather than to risk spoiling Yeomanry regiments by taking away their best squadron, and at the same time to take into the field a heterogeneous body with no cohesion and no right to be called a cavalry corps? His main objection to the Bill was that it placed the Militia and Yeomanry entirely in the power of the Secretary of State for War, and he certainly could see no reason why the right hon. Gentleman should be vested with liberty to transfer men from one corps to another, or to interfere with the training arrangements which were already open to be changed by Order in Council. If the Bill were read a second time he would put down Amendments to the various Clauses, for he thought the whole scheme required thoroughly sifting.
§ Amendment proposed—
§ "To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three mouths.'"—'(Sir Arthur Hayter.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."463
§ MAJOR RASCH () Essex, Chelmsford
said that ever since he had the honour of a seat in the House he had always opposed the Vote for the Yeomanry, because he thought it was impossible to justify the existence of the force. But during the last two years the Yeomanry had been completely changed and reformed in every particular, and had been made such a valuable force that, though he felt like Samuel among the prophets, he was now one of their warmest supporters. He was specially struck by the extraordinary success of the county Yeomanry regiments which were formed last year, although perhaps a little more riding drill was required, in order to avoid some of the casualities he had witnessed. That, however, was a detail which could be remedied in the near future. If the Yeomanry, however, were to be levelled up to the Militia they ought to have the advantages which the Militia enjoyed. Their bands ought to be paid for by the Government, and regular officers serving with them should be allowed to count such service for pension. Two objections were raised to that Bill. One was that the offer of £5 a year to a certain number of men would only be accepted by the worst possible men—by the scallywags. The other objection was that it would deplete the regiment of its best men. These arguments were mutually destructive, and he did not think there was much force in either of them. The object of the Bill, so far as the Yeomanry were concerned, was to form a corps d'elite to supplement the miserable weakness of the present cavalry regiments, and any one who had seen the cavalry regiments at Aldershot knew it was not too soon to supplement them by some means of other. It seemed to him that the proposal of the War-Office was very much like a sort of Cousin-German to the old Militia Reserve. It found a good many enemies, but during the course of a somewhat chequered military career he had the honour of serving in it, and he always found that the attraction of the Militia Reserve not only did not weaken the battalion, but was a considerable accession to the strength of the territorial regiment. He had never had much faith in the proposals of reform of the auxiliary forces adumbrated by right hon. Gentlemen on both sides. They had always appeared to him more or less like a merry-go-round. They started with much drum-beating, but when the band 464 stopped they found themselves in precisely the same position as when they began. As he thought the Bill meant business with regard to the Yeomanry, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would succeed in placing it on the Statute-Book.
§ MR. HALDANE () Haddingtonshire
said that the Secretary for War, bringing in a large scheme, desired to carry it out in the way his experts had elaborated it, and under these circumstances, no doubt Parliament was often a nuisance to a Minister who desired that scheme he had in hand should go quietly and smoothly. He understood, therefore, why the Bill had been brought forward at the fag end of the autumn sittings, when he was not likely to be hampered by unnecessary discussion and the necessity of wearisomely explaining the details, as he would be expected to do were the Bill brought on at the proper period of the session. Nevertheless Parliament had still some functions left, and there was an obligation on the Opposition, at all events, to see that Parliament understood the work to which it put its hand. When a Bill of this sort was brought before the House some explanation of its provisions should be given by the Minister in charge. It was not enough to say that at some time back those provisions had been discussed. Nobody carried in his head what had been said about technical details of a Bill brought in months ago, and it was the duty of the Minister to put the House in possession of the materials on which it could from a judgement. This was peculiarly necessary on the present occasion, for in the drafting of this Bill legislation by reference had been developed to a fine art in order to meet the exigencies of the Government situation, so that it was not easy for a Member to know what he was voting on unless he brought a library with him into the House. This Bill was very concisely drawn, and on the face of it appeared to be a very luminous measure. But closer examination of it soon dispelled that idea. For instance, Section 2 ran,— "Sections 3 and 4 of the Militia Act, 1882, relating to maintenance and government of the Militia shall apply to the Yeomanry." These artless words 465 completely changed the constitutional relations of the Yeomanry. They placed the Yeomanry under the entire control of the Secretary of State for War. He had the greatest confidence in the public spirit of his right hon, friend, but he objected to make him a Parliament, or a sovereign body of him, right off. Whatever good there might be in Home Rule he was bound to say that, in this instance, the War Office was claiming a measure of Home Rule far exceeding anything which had ever yet been submitted to Parliament. The great scheme of Army reform introduced by the right hon. Gentleman might be a good scheme—he was not nowdiscussing it—but this Bill was an integral part of it, and should not be passed without adequate consideration. How was it possible now to give it that consideration? This Bill could not have come on at all were it not for the arrangement come to by the two sides of the House with respect to the London Water Bill, and it was a little hard that people who had, in order to conduct public business in a reasonable fashion, consented to that arrangement should have this Bill thrust down their throats before they had an opportunity of digesting it. It seemed to him also that the course now being adopted by the Government was not in accordance with the understanding arrived at when the business of this special session was arranged. Speaking on the 16th October last, the Prime Minister, in moving his Resolution about Government business, said that the business in this winter sittings would be the Education Bill, the London Water Bill, the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, the Osborne Estate Bill, and one or two oddments; but there was not a word in the right lion. Gentleman's statement about this Bill, which involved such sweeping changes as he had pointed out; on the contrary, the only reference to any other in mattersof legislation than thosespecifically mentioned was the reference to such non-controversial matters as there might be a general desire to pass into law. He submitted that be had made out a complete case against proceeding with this Bill. He might also put it so high as to say that it would be almost a breach of faith to proceed with it if any objection were taken. Perhaps the right hon.
466 Gentleman was of opinion that it would pass without discussion, but they did not wish to pass it without discussion. They claimed the benefit, not only of the spirit, but the letter, of the undertaking which the Prime Minister gave to the House, and, therefore, while he was the last person to put difficulties in the way, he did not apologise for making the Motion that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Haldane.)
§ (3.2.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not imagine for a moment that we think he is desirous of obstructing in any way the business of Parliament in proposing the Motion he has made this afternoon, but he would probably not have taken up the attitude he has done if he had fully apprehended the scope and intention of the measure now presented to the House. I do not know how far I shall be in order in going into the merits of this measure on the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, but I really think there is one point which is not appreciated in any quarter of the House, or, at least, by those Members who have spoken in opposition to the measure today, namely, that this is not in any sense a new proposal which is brought before Parliament. It is not a demand for additional men or additional money, nor is it a measure brought forward in order to obtain Parliamentary assent to proposals which have not already obtained the assent of Parliament. As a matter of fact, and I put this most strongly to the House, this measure contains two propositions, both of which have not only been assented to already by the House of Commons, but they have been discussed. In one case, so far as I know, the proposal was unanimously agreed to. In the other case, I cannot recall a voice which was raised against it. Both proposals involve a sum which was put into the Estimates in 1902, and one of them a sum which was put into the Estimates in 1901, and 467 in each case these sums were voted by the House. I will not go into the merits of the Bill, but if Mr. Speaker will allow me, I will put the object very briefly. All that is required is simply this. You have the power by the Vote of Parliament to raise a number of men for the Militia Reserve and to pay them, but you have not got the power, as has since been discovered, to suspend their training, and if you raise them on those terms, you will have to train them exactly the same as the ordinary Militia require training, which, in the opinion of the military authorities, the Reserve does not. In the same way as regards the special service section of the Yeomanry, you have the power of Parliament to train and pay them, but you have not the power at this moment to call them out without the special power we propose to take in this Bill. If they were new proposals containing serious controversial matter, then I think probably the right hon. Gentleman might be justified in calling attention to the fact that this is not one of the measures specifically referred to in the speech of my right hon. friend on 16th October, but, as a matter of fact, with regard to the Militia not one word has been said against the proposal in these two years, in both of which I brought the subject before the House in my speech on the Estimates. As regards the Yeomanry, the Committee appointed to inquire into the subject strongly approved of this experiment being tried. The Committee was composed entirely of Yeomanry officers, and they expressed a year and a half ago the view that it should be attempted. I brought the matter as prominently as I could before the House in March last, and in all the debates which have taken place I do not remember that a single word was said in opposition. I say that is how the matter stands before the House of Commons at this moment. I would ask the House of Commons to understand our difficulty. I do not bring forward the Bill in pursuance of any ambitious scheme of any sort or kind, but merely to prevent the extraordinary expenditure involved in calling up totally untrained men to which we were put during the late war. It does seem a little hard that forces which have been voted by Parliament, and the money for which has been approved by Parliament, should not be allowed to be 468 raised on account of the technical difficulty which exists, and which is removed by this Bill. I would ask the House to remember that unless we get legislation on the subject now, it is practically putting off for a year measures which the military authorities consider to be essential to place us in a proper state of defence. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider this Motion. I believe that the time is ample for us to discuss such objections as may be raised, and I sincerely trust that we may be allowed to proceed with the discussion.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY () Northumberland, Berwick
said he was glad his right lion, and learned friend had made this Motion. He did think that the House was not being treated in the way it had a right to expect in regard to proceeding with the Bill at this time of the session. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had truly said that his lion, and learned friend could not be accused of making this Motion from a dilatory motive or a desire to impede the Government in the performance of necessary business. Obstruction in the ordinary sense could not be effective at the present time. The House was too thin and small to make obstruction effective if the Government wished to press anything. Their point was that the House relied upon the programme put before it, and the statement that it would not be asked to undertake controversial business other than that mentioned in the speech of the Prime Minister. The Government had the House at its mercy. The Secretary of State for War did not think this Bill urgent in the ordinary sense in which the House regarded urgency. What the right hon. Gentleman did plead was that it was something so consequential, and of so little importance considering what has proceeded in military discussions this year or the previous year, that it really did not require the attention of a full House. That was a statement which was not accepted by hon. Members on more than one side of the House who had paid special attention to this question. The real difference of opinion between the right hon. Gentleman and the House on this occasion was as to whether this Bill was so small and so consequential as had been stated. A considerable part of the House held that it was not so small 469 and consequential, and that it did involve larger changes in principle than the right hon. Gentleman admitted. When a dispute of this kind arose between a Minister and the House as to whether the House had previously pledged itself in the debates in a way that rendered it unnecessary to discuss a particular measure, the House alone should be the judge, and at present it was too thin for them to expect an opinion as to whether this measure was a consequential part of the larger scheme of which it had already approved. When the Bill was brought forward earlier in the year at least two Members on the Government side of the House had expressed the strongest objection to the Bill being pressed. If objection to the Bill existed, it was not confined to one side of the House, and that entitled them to say that the right lion. Gentleman ought to pause before proceeding with it, on the assumption that it was one which did not need much discussion. The Bill involved some large changes in principle.
§ MR. BRODRICK
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that they have already been discussed and approved by Parliament—one of them on two occasions?
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said that was his very point. The right hon. Gentleman said the House had already approved of the large changes which were covered by the Bill. The question of difference between hon. Members and the right hon. Gentleman was whether a full House in giving its general approval to his scheme was contemplating then a measure of this kind as an integral part of it. He held that they could not go on with this Bill without discussing the large changes of principle which were involved, even though those changes were small in practice. They did not know but that this was part ot a much larger scheme. What lie asked the Prime Minister was this— Was it fair to the House of Commons to press this measure forward after the statement lie had made at the commencement of the session. Ot course "breach of faith'' was a strong term, and should never be used except in circumstances of extreme exasperation 470 and provocation; but no one could read the statement of the Prime Minister at the commencement of the session without seeing that the introduction of this measure was a most unexpected departure from the programme then announced. The Prime Minister, after stating that programme which, of course, included the Education Bill, and the London Water Bill, said, "Thereare a few other measures on the Order Paper which I think are uncontroversial. With regard to these I shall certainly not think of asking the House to make any exceptional exertions, but, if there is a general desire that they should pass, I think they ought to pass into law." He did not think it was consistent with that statement that this measure, which was clearly regarded as controversial, should be pressed. He therefore supported, and asked the House to support, the Motion of his hon. friend that the debate be adjourned.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No notice has been given to me that objection was going to be taken against proceeding with this Bill, on the ground that it was inconsistent with what I had said on a I previous occasion, I am the more surprised that this argument should be sprung on the House, because it was perfectly understood that in making arrangements yesterday to meet the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite in regard to the Water Bill. I especially begged that it should bo understood that no objection should be raised to the Bill of my right hon. friend without notice.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
I beg pardon; I was not present myself, but I understand that the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, did enter a caceat
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am in the recollection of the House as to the general accuracy of what I have stated. But the right hon. Gentleman will see that that has nothing whatever to do with my speech, at the beginning of the Autumn Sittings. I gather that it is on that speech that the right hon. Gentleman who has sprung this Motion on the House relies. I had not had time to read all the debates on the 16th of October. Only 471 one of my speeches has been quoted. After making it, I was reminded, immediately after I sat down, that I had omitted to mention the Militia and Yeomanry Bill, and I took care to remedy that omission when I came to reply on the afternoon's debate. It is reported in Hansard, which seems to be very accurate, that I said, "The only general pledge I give to the House is that it will not be asked to discuss general legislative questions which, however interesting or important, can be deferred to a subsequent session. I believe in that connection I ought to mention in the first place a one-Clause Bill which my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War will introduce and explain in good time, and which he tells me ought to be passed without any undue delay." I am quite sure that everybody who heard me make that statement will recognise that part of the programme for the Autumn Sittings was the Bill of my right hon. friend. I hope, therefore, that that particular argument will not be used beyond the point to which it can be reasonably carried, seeing that we have always regarded the passage of this Bill as eminently desirable, and have stated this on the first day of the session. I venture respectfully to suggest to the House that, at all events, the explanation of the Bill by my right hon. friend should be beard, and that he should be allowed to state his reasons for thinking that this is the proper time for passing the Bill. It will then be admitted, I think, that it is not with the view of obtaining any Party credit for the Government, but in the public interest. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not press his Amendment, but will give my right hon. friend a chance of stating his case to the House of Commons.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER () Staffordshire, Lichfield
said that the House would have listened with great interest to the Secretary of State for War if he had made a statement when the Bill was introduced. The difficulty was that there were important points in the Bill which many Members, who did not expect it to be proceeded with, would wish to discuss. The Secretary of State tor War made the point that the Militia Vote had not been discussed this year. That was quite true, 472 because it came on at nine o'clock, when few Members were in the House. But, on the general discussion of the whole scheme of Army Corps and Yeomanry, it was very strongly opposed in many parts of the House. He begged to support the Motion of his right hon, friend for the adjournment of the debate.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said he was surprised to hear the right hon. Baronet read the passage from the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury so as to suggest that there was a breach of faith. He remembered that speech, and had himself intended to quote the passage which the Prime Minister had read from his speech—and it was an extraordinary and rare instance of the accuracy of the Hansard report—that it was proposed to introduce a one-Clause Bill.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he did not say so, but that the right hon. Gentleman had read the passage so as to suggest that there had been a breach of faith. The reference to the "one-Clause Bill" had suggested to him something quite informal, which would have been brought in and passed without any discussion. He was, therefore, surprised when he saw what the Bill was. Of course, they might have a one-Clause Bill to abolish the Monarchy, and really this one-Clause Bill did the next thing to it. This one-Clause Bill proposed to do for the Secretary of State for War that for doing which James II. was sent over the water. The Act of Settlement recited that James II. "by the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges, and Ministers employed by him, had endeavoured to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion, and the laws and liberties of this kingdom by dispensing with, and suspending the laws." That was exactly what this Bill was to enable the Secretary of State for War to do, as though he were to be set up as a sort of James III. It said. "For the purpose of forming reserve divisions of the Militia and Yeomanry, the Secretary of State may, by regulations, relax or dispense with the provisions of any enactment relating to training of Militia and Yeomanry, so far as 473 regards their application to men in the reserve divisions, &c." This gave him a dispensing power over every enactment that referred to the subject matter. For a one-Clause Bill this was rather a tremendous measure, and it did not in the least answer to the expectation raised in his mind by the words used by the First Lord of the Treasury when he introduced it. He was merely dealing now with its character in point of weight and importance. It was a large thing to give to a Minister a dispensing power over any enactment whatever. The right hon. gentleman the First Lord had made the suggestion that before deciding whether the House should continue the discussion on this measure, it should hear a larger description from the Secretary for War as to what it was intended to do. If that suggestion were accepted, he presumed it would be necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw his Motion, on the understanding that it could be revived, if necessary, after the right bon. Gentleman s explanation. He should like to add that undoubtedly these sittings had been crowded with new measures and new proposals, which no oneever expected. They had had new Supply, another Appropriation Act, and tonight they were to have further Supply set up, or probably a third Appropriation Bill. That was not quite the way to treat special sittings—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member is not addressing himself to the Question before the House.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he would merely repeat his suggestion, which seemed to be the most reasonable way of dealing with the matter—viz., that the right hon. Gentleman should withdraw his Motion, and allow the Secretary for State to explain the measure. The Motion might then be revived.
§ (3.35.) MR. BRYCE () Aberdeen, S.
said he did not suggest that the Government had committed anything like a breach of faith in the matter. What were the facts? They were told at the beginning of the Autumn Sittings that the Government were not going to proceed with any large measures, except the Education Bill and the London Water Bill. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that there might be one or two small Bills, not of a controversial or very urgent nature; but at 474 a later period, not leading the House to suppose that it was uppermost in his mind, the right hon. Gentleman interposed a remark in regard to this Bill, which had not then been introduced. It was described by the right hon. Gentleman as a one-Clause Bill; and they naturally supposed that it was some simple Departmental measure, which might require half-an hour or an hour to discuss, and which would not raise any serious difference of opinion. Therefore, he thought that, although there was nothing in the nature of a breach of faith, there was an understanding, or an impression, created in the House, which was not consistent with the course that the Government now proposed to take. They did not expect that they should be called upon, after the two main measures hadbeen disposed of, to discuss any question which would raise new issues, on which there was considerable difference of opinion, and which might have very important results. No one could say that the Bill was not an important one, or one which did not raise considerable opposition. As was observed by his right hon. friend, there were three hostile notices on the Paper, two of them by hon. Members opposite and, as the hon. Gentleman had just said, it gave dispensing power over certain legislation. That power was sometimes given, but many of them thought the present proposal was going rather further in that direction than Parliament, with due regard to its functions and principles, ought to go by releasing a Government Department from the ordinary provisions of the law, and entrusting to it practically legislative power. The right hon. Gentleman asked by the Bill to be what the Roman Emperor was—relieved from obligation to the law. Whatever confidence there might be in the right hon. Gentleman's Department—he would not discuss that now—was it right that any Department should be granted such wide powers without a far larger and fuller discussion than was now likely? What was the position of the House? Hon. Members had been exhausted by long debates; the attendance was exceedingly thin; and many hon. Members, who had the knowledge and experience enabling them to take part in the discussion of the Bill, were not present; and could not have been present considering the notice 475 that was given. The discussion, therefore, under such conditions, must be of a perfunctory character; and it was not right that the large matters to which the Bill led should be proceeded with at this period of the Session. It had been suggested, as he understood, by the right hon. Gentleman that what was chiefly desirable was that the purport of the Bill should be explained. If that were the main thing desired, he did not suppose that there would be any objection to allowing the Secretary of State to make a statement; and he presumed, under the circumstances, that his right hon. friend would be willing to withdraw his Amendment. But that if the statement of the Secretary of State removed the objections which were felt to the Bill, if it put the Bill on a new footing and made it appear to be no longer controversial, then the House might consent to go on with it; but that if objections were still entertained to it, if any considerable section of the House still felt it was too large a measure to be proceeded with at such short notice, the Government should consent to the debate being adjourned and to the Bill going over until next session. It was only on some such terms that they could consent to allow a statement to be made. But if the Government seriously proposed, in spite of the difficulties which had been stated in a manner that carried conviction to every dispassionate mind, to persist with the Bill, it would be necessary for them to enter a protest, which was conveyed in the Motion for the Adjournment, and to take the sense of the House as to whether the Bill should be proceeded with on such an untimely occasion.
§ MR. BECKETT () Yorkshire, W.R., Whitby
said he would urge the Government to accept the Motion of the right hon Gentleman. He thought the Prime Minister was under a misapprehension. The Secretary of State for War stated, just before the Prime Minister entered the House, that he had already sufficiently explained the Bill. Further, the right hon. Gentleman said that he had explained it to such an extent that the House was already committed to it.
476 Either they knew what the Bill contained or they did not. If they did, then it was not necessary that they should abstain from pressing the Motion; if they did not know what the Bill contained, and that a longer statement from the Secretary of State for War was necessary, then it was obvious that they ought not, at that period, to be called upon to consider it. It was true that the Secretary of State for War made an explanation on the Estimates, but that was part and parcel of the whole scheme of Army Administration; they could not pick out the particular part which referred to the Bill; and they naturally passed the Estimates as they were presented to them. But he could not see how the House could be said to have given consent to a Bill which, at the time, was not in existence. If the Government wished to press it, they could carry the Bill; but whether that would be wise or desirable, in the teeth of strong opposition from all quarters of the House, was another question. He would, furthermore, appeal to the Prime Minister on the ground that, as his right hon. friend had said, the Bill was part and parcel of that larger scheme which was not yet in full operation. Before they discussed a Bill which introduced a great many serious changes they ought to see the other parts of the scheme in full operation; and on that ground he would ask his right hon. friend to consent to the Bill being postponed.
§ COLONEL BLUNDELL () Lancashire, Ince
said he would most respectfully urge on the House that the Bill was an urgent Bill. What they wanted especially was a reserve for the Militia. Any hon. Member who had studied the Army at all would agree that the Militia was the stand-by of the nation. He had seen that at the Crimea. It was very important that they should have a reserve of Yeomanry; but he disagreed very much with the proposal that the Yeomanry should be called to pass from regiment to regiment, except in time of war. There were at present in the country a number of men returned from the War who found it difficult to get work. Each of them would know where they could get a little extra money by 477 joining the reserve of Militia or Yeomanry if the Bill were passed; and he was satisfied that great injury would be inflicted if the measure were not proceeded with.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN () Kent, Tunbridge
said he was very much astonished at the attitude which had been taken up by many hon. Members with reference to the measure, especially at the attitude of his hon. friend the Member for the Whitby Division. For a long time past hon. Members on both sides of the House had been calling out for Army reform; and he believed that there was no keener Army reformer than his hon. friend. Yet, on the present occasion, when his right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War came forward with a very small but very necessary measure of Army reform, it was immediately met by a dilatory Motion from the other side, which was supported by his hon. friend. It seemed to him that, in Army reform they ought to take small measures, such as that before the House, and press them through when they had time at their disposal. For his part, he could not understand what the objections to the Bill were. They had been told that under sub-Section 2 very large powers would be given to the Secretary of State in connection with the Yeomanry; but these were the very powers which had been in force since 1882 in connection with the Militia, and he had never heard that any bad result had followed from the exercise of them. Why, therefore, should they not be entrusted to his right hon. friend in connection with the Yeomanry? Then, as to that part of the Bill in which he was more immediately concerned, the powers given to the Secretary of State in connection with the Militia, he, speaking as a Militiaman, would submit to the House that the reserve of Militia promised by the Secretary of State would be far better than the old Militia reserve. It seemed to him most extraordinary that when his right hon. friend the Secretary of State asked the House to pass this small Act to carry out the purpose which he had fully explained both this year and last, for which the House had already voted the money, and which would give the country a real reserve of Militia, that he should be met with a dilatory Motion of this kind. Speaking as a Militiaman, he 478 hoped this Motion would be defeated, and that the Government would press forward this Bill. It was impossible to obtain a Militia reserve without this Bill, and it was only right that the Bill should be passed in order to enable that reserve to be created without delay.
§ MAJOR SEELY () Isle of Wight
said the hon. Member who had just sat down contended that all army reformers ought to support this small Bill, because they ought in the interest of army reform to support all such small Bills as this whenever the House had time to pass them. The contention of his hon. friend opposite was that the Bill was a retrograde step.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said the question whether this was a good or a bad measure was not before the House. The question was whether the debate should be adjourned.
§ MAJOR SEELY
apologised for having trespassed beyond the subject before the House. He should support the Motion for the Adjournment because he believed, quite apart from the Bill being a retrograde measure in itself, it was as contentious a Bill as could well be. The people acquainted with it were almost unanimously opposed to it, and although no one would accuse the Government of a breach of faith in the matter, the House contended that the Government had made a mistake in saying that the Bill was non-controversial, when, as a matter of fact, directly it was put into words it was highly contentious. He strongly urged the House to support the Motion for the Adjournment.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD () Woolwich
thought the House was in a rather curious position. As he understood, the right hon. Gentleman had been asked by his light hon. friend the Prime Minister and others to explain the Bill, and as he (Lord Charles Beres-ford) understood, if that explanation were made the Motion for the Adjournment would not be persisted in. Would the right hon. Gentleman explain the measure?
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
said in that case he would offer a few remarks upon the Motion for the Adjournment and the reason why he should vote for it. He should vote for the Adjournment because the thought this Bill was a portion of a patchwork scheme of Army reform; it was part of an enormous scheme which the right hon. Gentleman had taken in hand. Whether the scheme was a good or a bad scheme he did not know, but from what he had heard he thought the whole scheme was a very bad scheme indeed, and that any such scheme of reform was perfectly impossible. He should also vote in favour of the Motion for the Adjournment because to bring forward this patchwork Bill at this late period of the Session was in his opinion impolitic in itself, and because he believed that such a course would land us into enormous expenditure without our getting any of that efficiency which we all wished for. On those grounds, and believing that, as some a scheme of Army reform had been proved to be necessary for this country the matter should be amply, quietly, but not hurriedly debated, he should support the Motion for the Adjournment. They should look at the matter more from a national than a Party point of view.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON () Manchester, N.E.
said his noble friend who had just addressed the House was an Irishman in the best sense of the word, and his speech on this occasion seemed to have been one of those Irish conundrums so difficult of solution. The Motion before the House was to prevent the Bill being discussed. Yet the noble Lord voted for it because he thought the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman was a bad one. The noble Lord could form no opinion on the matter until he had heard why it was desirable that a considerable part of the scheme should be passed now. No doubt his right hon. friend could give good reason for passing this portion of his scheme at the present time, and he was inclined to think his right hon. friend might now regret not having made a statement when he moved the Second Reading. But was not the House stultifying itself in discussing a dilatory motion of this kind without knowing what the scheme was?
§ MR. KEMP () Lancashire, Heywood
pointed out that the hon. Member for King's Lynn had suggested that the House ought to hear the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State first of all, and then if it was not satisfactory the Motion for the Adjournment of the debate should continue. The Prime Minister, quoting from a speech in which he stated he was going to bring in this Bill, said the Bill would be explained in good time. Was this explaining it in good time? As he understood it, this was an important part of a large scheme of Army reform, and if that was so it ought to be discussed at the time when the whole question came up and not at the end of a Session such as the present. The House had met for the Education and the Water Bills, and they did not expect to have other important questions brought forward for discussion. He would be very sorry to oppose anything which had for its ostensible object the reform of the Army, but he strongly objected to the manner in which this matter was being dealt with, and therefore he should support the Motion.
§ SIR ARTHUR HAYTER
said the right hon. Gentleman had stated, and had been backed up by the hon. and gallant Member, that this Bill was absolutely essential in order to alter the training of the Militia. If that was so, what had become of that article in the Militia Act which stated that His Majesty in Council might order the training to be extended or to be dispensed with? That article was in force now, and therefore this Bill could not be required. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to maintain that the question whether men should be changed from one regiment to another, and from one county to another, had ever been discussed in this House?
§ (3.59.) Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 60; Noes, 90. (Division List No. 621.)
|Beckett, Ernest William||Harwood, George||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Beresford, Lord Chas. William||Hayne, Rt.Hon. Charles Seale.||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Bowles,Capt. H. F.(Middlesex)||Hayer, Rt.Hon. Sir ArthurD.||Smith, Abel H.(Hertford,East)|
|Bowles, T. Gibson(King'sLynn)||Jones, David Brynmor(Sw'nsea||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Kemp, George||Spencer, Rt. Hn. C.R.(Northants|
|Bryce, Rt.Hon. James||Kitson, Sir James||Thomas, F. Freeman-(Hastings|
|Burt, Thomas||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Tomkinson, James|
|Caldwell, James||Lloyd-George. David||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Cameron, Robert||Lough, Thomas||Wallace, Robert|
|Causton, Richard Knight||M'Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||M'Kenna, Reginald||Wason, Eugene(Clackmannan)|
|Crombie, Johm William||Markham, Arthur Basil||Wason, John Catheart(Orkney)|
|Cust, Henry John C.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Weir, James Galloway|
|Davies, M. vaughan-(Cardigan||Parker, Sir Gilbert||Whiteley, George(York, W.R.)|
|Dilke, Rt.Hon. Sir Charles||Paulton, James Mellor||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Fenwick, Charles||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||Rea, Russell|
|Gladstone, RtHn. HerbertJohn||Rigg, Richard||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)||Mr. Haldane and Major.|
|Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs.)||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)||Seely|
|Grey,Rt.Hon. Sir E. (Berwick)||Saunderson, RtHn. Col. Edw. J.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Fletcher, Rt.Hon. Sir Henry||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Flower, Ernest||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Forster, Henry William||Pease, Herbert Pike(Darlingt'n|
|Arrol, Sir William||Galloway, William Johnson||Plummer, Walter R.|
|Atkinson,Rt.Hon. John||Gardner, Ernest||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Garfit, William||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Balcarres, Lord||Godson,Sir AugustusFrederick||Purvis, Robert|
|Balfour, Rt Hon. A.J.(Manch'r||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Balfour, RtHn. GeraldW(Leeds||Heath,ArthurHoward(Hanley||Rattigan, Sir William Henry|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Heaton, John Henniker||Remnant, James Farqubarson|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hoare, Sir Samuel||Ridley, Hon. M. W. (Stalybridge|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Brodrick, Rt.Hon. St. John||Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Johnstone, Heywood||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Bull, William James||Kenyon, Hon. Geo. T. (Denbigh)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Carson, Rt.Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Law, Andrew Bonar(Glasgow)||Spear, John Ward|
|Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbyshire||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)|
|Chamberlain, RtHn. J. A. (Wore.||Lawson, John Grant||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H.A.E.||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Lockie, John||Valentia, Viscount|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Walrond, Rt.Hon. Sir Wm. H.|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Long, Rt.Hon Walter(Bristol, S.||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft||Wilson-Todd,Wm. H. (Yorks.|
|Crossley, Sir Savile||M. Killop, James (Stirlingshire||Wortley, Rt.Hon. C.B. Stuart-|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Doaglas, Rt.Hon. A. Akers-||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire||Wyndham, Rt.Hon. George|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer|
|Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Mount, William Arthur|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Muntz, Sir Philip A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Fergusson, Rt Hn. Sir J.(Mane'r||Murray, RtHn A.Graham(Bute||Sir Alexander Acland-|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Hood and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
§ Question again proposed. "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BRODRICK
Before proceeding to describe the scope of the Bill, I may say that it is through no fault of mine that I have not explained this measure hitherto. I did explain its main points under the Ten Minutes Rule, but at a time when the House was in a state of excitement over an incident which had
§ just occurred, and, through no fault of mine except that I could not make myself heard, was unable to gauge the full effect of the measure. Again, when I was called on the other night, an hon. Member rose and moved the Adjournment of the debate. On the present occasion I thought it was only reasonable and courteous to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who had given notice of his intention to move the rejection of 483 the Bill, to listen to what he had to say, and before I had an opportunity to rise, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Haddingtonshiremoved the Adjournment of the debate. But I have now an opportunity of bringing the scope of the measure before the House, and I will endeavour to do so without taking up an undue amount of time.
§ First of all, I think there is very considerable misapprehension in the House as to the scope of the measure. Several speeches have been made indicating a belief that some large new principles are affirmed by the Bill, that very large new powers are to be given to the Secretary of State, and that there is an amount of change involved which the House has not contemplated, and which would justify a very considerable discussion at a period of the Session when it could not be carried on without great disadvantage. I think I can show the House that all these contentions are unsound, and that the scope of the measure is limited. To begin with, it is not a measure to take the opinion of the House as to the establishment of the Militia and Yeomanry reserve. What was the position of the Militia during the past campaign? It consisted of an establishment of 150,000 men which had always been at a strength of about 100,000—that is to say, the Militia had 100,000 men to fulfil functions assigned to 150,000. Each regiment, in other words, was short of one man in three. But that did not represent the full effect of the position of the Militia. They were liable to send to the Line at any moment 30.000 men who were liable to be called upon for Line service, and who were, in fact, so called upon during the late campaign. Consequently, a Militia colonel who ought to have had about 1,000 men in his regiment, taking the average of all the regiments, found himself, to begin with, with 650, and with the full expense of the permanent staff and establishment for a complete regiment. He saw three out of every ten of these men called away to serve in the Line. Thus the force, already reduced to 100,000, was further reduced to 70,000. But even that was not the full extent of the difficulty. Of these 70,000 men, half were recruits in their first year, men 484 who had joined at the age of seventeen or a little over, and who were not physically fit to be put in the field. Even in this country it was a strong thing to put a boy of seventeen in the field.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I think the hon. Member will agree with the remark I made, whatever he may say as to what has been done. Even if these men had been physically fit, they were not sufficiently trained to be put in the field against European troops. Thus the actual numbers of the active Militia two years ago, after the Militia Reservists had joined their Line battalions, were about 35,000 men instead of 150,000. I am sure the House will agree that that was a condition of affairs which no War Minister could possibly leave alone. It was recognised in the beginning of 1900 by the enormous expenditure incurred in rapidly collecting together the men who had served in the Army and Militia, who were induced to come hurriedly forward, and who were rapidly arranged into Royal Reserve regiments.
That was the condition of affairs which I put before the House early last year, and which the House debated on a Resolution distinctly carrying out the proposition, to give legislative effect to which is the object of the main Clause of this Bill. I proposed to the House, as the cheapest, most efficient, and most certain way of bringing the Militia up to its proper strength of 150,000. that 50,000 men who had served in the Army and completed their service in the Line Reserve, or had served for ten years in the Militia, should be allowed to take 4d. a day to join a Reserve for the Militia, to be called up in case of national emergency. That proposition was the onlv one of the numerous propositions I then submitted in a scheme which the Militia authorities inform me is working out satisfactorily in almost every detail, which, so far as I am aware, was unanimously approved of by every speaker, and after three days debate was specifically approved of by the House in these 485 terms: "That it is expedient that six Army Corps," and so forth, "be organised," and "That a Reserve for the Militia be enrolled not exceeding 50,000 men." We are actually under pledges to the men who have joined the garrison regiments. The principle upon which the garrison regiments were formed was to give the men who had completed their service in the Line and in the Reserve one of two alternatives. They might go back to civil life if they liked; but if they desired to continue further service up to twenty-one years they could do so, by going into the garrison regiments, and then, after two years, transferring themselves into the Reserve of the Militia. Having before us the Resolution of Parliament sanctioning that arrangement, and the Vote for the money, the War Office, as we were entitled to do, issued to the men who had come forward to join the garrison regiments the pledge of Parliament that they should be subsequently allowed to serve in the Reserve of the Militia, and in March or April a number of the men will be in a position to take that service. How do we stand? It was not, I admit, pointed out before I made the proposal that, under the existing Militia Acts, if you enrol a Militiaman in the Reserve he is subject to all the Militia enactments with regard to training, and to remove those regulations the right hon. Gentleman asks: "Why do you not do that by Order in Council?" But an Order in Council is intended only for temporary cases in which it is not thought necessary to train a particular corps in a particular year, and, besides, it is subject to the provisions of the Militia Acts, which do not contemplate the establishment of a Reserve for the Militia, which is now desired. Obviously, therefore, the most straightforward course for the War Office was to bring forward their proposals in the form in which we have submitted them to the House. It seems to be supposed that power can be given to the Secretary of State for War to dispense with all the enactments relating to the Militia; but, as a matter of fact, those only which relate to training are touched, and all the general enactments with reference to the Militia remain exactly the same. I therefore hope that this portion of the Bill—involving the good faith of the War Office, which has been pledged to the men in the garrison 486 regiments that they should be permitted to enter the Reserve of the Militia—shall be regarded as non-controversial, and that the discussion shall be confined to those portions relating to the Yeomanry which are regarded as novel. The chief provision in that section of the Bill is that which proposes to ask 5,000 of the Yeomanry to agree to serve abroad in case of emergency, and to give them £5 a year per man for that obligation.
Many things have been said about this. The first is that it is establishing a Reserve similar to the old Militia Reserve, which provided a force of 100,000 men— one-third available, one-third recruits, and one-third taken away from the Line. How is it with the Yeomanry? I ask the House to vote a large additional sum for the Yeomanry, because the value of the Yeomanrv as a mounted service has been clearly established by their record in South Africa, and considering that within a year of the time within which I had laid my new proposals with regard to the force before the country, it has gone up from 9,000 to 27,000, and the numerous demands for the establishment of new regiments which come before the War Office, I do not think it is too much to ask that out of the 35,000 men proposed to be raised 5,000 should he available for service abroad in case of need, leaving 30,000 available for service in this country. I do not believe that the general force of the Yeomanry will suffer through jealousy of this special corps of 5,000 men. Not only did a Departmental Committee report unanimously in favour of making the experiment, but at a meeting which I summoned, attended by thirty commanding officers of the yeomanry, twenty-seven supported it. It should be also remembered that this is an insurance against large expenditure upon the Army. Every Regular soldier costs the country £50 a year. These men will cost only £9 a year. The proposal carries out what should be the policy of every Minister for War— namely, having the largest number of men in the Reserve and the smallest number of men with the Colours, consistent, of course, with every regiment being maintained in a proper condition. The country cannot afford to keep at full pay, standing as it were to arms, the whole of the forces required for the defence of the country; and by giving 5,000 men of the Yeomanry £5 each 487 for agreeing to serve abroad in case of emergency, you avoid, for £25,000, an expenditure, which, in the case of Regular soldiers, would amount to £500,000 at the very leat. For that reason, and having regard to the service which the authorities hold that these troops did in South Africa, and their absolute eligibility for such services in case of emergency abroad, or in any other part of the world, I sincerely trust, in fact, I am certain, that this provision, if time be given to discuss it, will obtain the assent of this House. Remember that this question has been discussed with great exactness before, and carried, and a Vote has been given for it, and therefore we have already obtained the assent of Parliament.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE () Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean
What does the right hon. Gentleman mean when he says that this proposal has been discussed, and a Vote given on it, with regard to the Yeomanry?
§ MR. BRODRICK
I mean that the proposal was put forward in the sense that a proposal was put into the Estimates, and specifically called attention to by the Minister, and a discussion was raised upon it. So far as I am aware no hostile objection was taken to it.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
Will the right hon. Gentleman name the day on which he says that the question was discussed?
§ MR. BRODRICK
I cannot give the day, but I certainly called attention to it. The right hon. Gentleman says that you ought not to move Militia from one regiment to another. Many of these men have served in territorial regiments, and some in regiments which were not territorial. The large number of men who are coming home far exceed those that are necessary for a Militia battalion of that calibre, and include some of those who have never served in the Militia. Of course the general principle of the territorial system will be kept up to the extremest limit possible.
§ MR. BRODRICK
As regards the Yeomanry, power is taken to transfer where a reserve is possible, and we desire to keep the system on the most common-sense basis. Let me now explain the position. I trust, at all events, in regard to the Militia, we shall be allowed to consider the provisions of the Bill as non-controversial. As regards the Yeomanry part, if there was any general consensus of opinion among Yeomanry officers against it I would not press it for a moment; but the mass of Yeomanry officers strongly support it, and I still hope, therefore, that hon. Members will give this portion of the scheme that fair discussion which is still possible, and allow it to be inserted in the measure. I have referred to what are the strong grounds in our possession for originating the Yeomanry part of the Bill. It is, as I have said, not a new proposal, but merely the completion of a scheme for which Parliament has already voted money. It is urgent from the point of view of the military authorities, and, if put off, must seriously inconvenience the arrangements we are making to put the Army into a proper condition after the war.
§ *(4.35.) SIR CHARLES DILKE
said he would not follow the right hon. Gentleman on the Militia part of the Bill. There were Members in the House who were fully competent to discuss it from the Militia point of view, though he himself was not able to do so. He frankly admitted that he was a revolutionist in regard to the infantry services of the country. He did not believe in the distinctions which were drawn in regard to these services, and therefore he put himself out of court for discussing from a technical point of view the Militia. The Yeomanry part of the Bill was a different matter, and it was impossible to discuss it as if it were one that could be decided by Yeomanry colonels. Their opinion on Yeomanry was of the utmost value, but it was not worth more than the opinion of any member of the Committee with regard what should be the mounted troops of this country for war abroad. Some of our Yeomanry officers who had done most distinguished service abroad were those who had served during the past two or three years in 489 South Africa. They had had more experience of cavalry and yeomanry than any troops in the world. They had become absolutely competent men to speak on the subject of mounted infantry; but the opinion of a Yeomanry colonel at home was only of the same value as that of any Member of the House on a matter of this kind. They must discuss the Yeomanry part of the Bill from a larger point of view. They could not form an opinion on it unless they had in their mind what the British Empire was, and what in case of war the Yeomanry would have to do. Applying himself only to the portion of the Bill affecting the mounted services of the country, he asked the House to have in view the wider considerations of which he had spoken. The right hon. Gentleman said that the House had already approved of his proposals. On every occasion when questions affecting the mounted infantry and cavalry had been under consideration in the House, there had been a great deal of objection taken to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, and as one who was present at the whole of these debates, he did not think they could be said to have been generally favoured by the House. The feeling of the House on those occasions was against the proposals which were shadowed forth. When the right hon. Gentleman put his six Army Corps scheme before the House, a great attack was made against making up any of the Regular Army in respect of cavalry and mounted infantry by the use of Yeomanry. At that time no statement was made by the right hon. Gentleman to lead the House to suppose but that the Yeomanry regiments selected for service in time of war would be there as they had served in time of peace. In the statement made the year before last, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman gave any hint to the House of the proposal ever to take out a portion of the Yeomanry and use them to make up the deficiencies of the Reserve or for the cavalry of the Regular Army.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I ought to have made it clear that the proposal now made would of course not be on the lines of the old Militia Reserve, who were a body of trained soldiers.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
said the proposal now was a new one. Last year the right hon. Gentleman threw out a hint that a certain number of men were to be taken for service abroad in time of war, and to receive pay for that purpose, but he did not then tell the House what was the scheme proposed. Now for the first time an explanation was given in regard to the men who were to serve in separate squadrons attached to the regiments which were to go abroad.
With regard to the 30,000 Yeomanry at home, that was an essential portion of the ideas of the right hon. Gentleman, who believed in a home army to resist invasion, and who contemplated the possibility of the defeat of our fleets at sea. It was impossible not to take these considerations into view in discussing this subject. Those who believed in naval defence as the only one that could be effective, rejected the home army part of the scheme, and believed that what was wanted was a striking army that could go abroad, and for that a high proportion of regular trained mounted troops was required. That they could not get without professional training; they could not get it from the Yeomanry would be trained. The differences between cavalry and regular mounted infantry had now become so distinct that the Powers were likely in the next few years to be going in a direction in which, with our South African experience, we ought to precede them—namely, of having both cavalry and regular permanent mounted infantry. The War Office were too much inclined to take a good class of recruit for the Yeomanry, and to take this as being the equivalent of cavalry. They had in recent times seen regiments take highly belligerent titles, such as the Rutlandshire Rough Riders, or words to that effect, and they were accepted by the War Office as being what they appeared to be at first sight. But they were not cavalry soldiers, and they could not be counted upon as persons who had received a cavalry or a mounted infantry training which would fit them at once to take their place in the ranks of the regiments into which they would be sent. But now, he believed, the Government had not finally made up their mind on the subject, and that was one reason why he thought the discussion that afternoon would be of value. He had seen 491 hints given that it was possible the Government might have in view the creation of regular mounted infantry regiments. Of course there were a great many men serving in South Africa who had had such a training, and in that respect we stood in a position of superiority to the other Powers. But the Government would have to take a decision on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that he shrank from the cost of extending this branch of the service; but the plea he offered to the House was that if the cost of the service had become too great, it was on the infantry, which they could improvise, rather than on the mounted infantry, that they should economise. The same argument had been used some years ago in regard to the artillery and the cavalry, which had been cut down and their horses reduced in number; and it was ultimately admitted that he and his friends were right and the Government wrong. The same thing was now going on in regard to the mounted infantry. They were going to try, for the sake of cheapness, to save on this branch of the service, although there was much ground for thinking that it was on it they must rely in an emergency. He should not be in order if he were to point out, on the Second Reading of this Bill, where a saving on the infantry might come in; but he did most earnestly plead with the Government and the House not to try to save money on the mounted branches of the service which could not be improvised in case of war. They all knew what occurred in South Africa. A portion of the mounted troops hurriedly raised were good, but the great bulk of them were not only useless, but were absolutely a danger; and it was not till they had been some time in the field that they were found to be of much service. The Government had too much in view, in regard to home defence as compared with naval defence, this 30,000 Yeomanry, as against this striking force of 5,000 men. The need of this country was to have a thoroughly prepared striking force. These troops, for which we paid so highly, ought to be of the best description; and Bills of this kind, which provided for masses of half-trained men as an imperfect makeshift, should not receive the sanction of 492 this House. The Prime Minister had that day made a most important declaration as to what was occupying the mind of the Government at the present time in connection with national defence. The right hon. Gentleman had promised a complete statement at the beginning of next session; and the House would wait for that with great interest. He could not but think that it would be better for the Government to agree to drop the Yeomanry portion of the Bill, for if they passed that portion they should be shutting the door against those fresh proposals which the Prime Ministerled them to hope for next session. He did not think it would be difficult to pass the Militia portion of the Bill. The Secretary for War had apparently forgotten what Napier had said of the Government of 1813, that they seemed to be unaware that we were surrounded by the sea. The Secretary for War had always in his mind that it was necessary to have a large land force in these islands because we might be invaded. Let the right hon. Gentleman get that out of his head. We should have a highly organised and concentrated force, but above all, we ought to be strong in cavalry, mounted infantry, and artillery.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB () Great Yarmouth
said that he would heartily endorse all that had been said by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. Having taken some part in the debate on the Army Reform Bill, of which this was really a part, he could say that his objection to that scheme was the want of appreciation of the conditions in which the Empire existed and of its military necessities. It would be quite improper for him to proceed on that line now, but he strongly objected to voting in any way for any part of a scheme which showed that the Government were carrying out a false policy which was not for the benefit of the country. He could not accept the plea of his right hon. friend the Secretary for War as to the urgency of this Bill. Twenty months ago the House passed a measure creating the Militia Reserve of 50,000 men, and now his right hon. friend came down and said—"If you don't pass this Bill, such and such terrible things will happen." If it 493 was urgent now, it must have been urgent all through the session. The fact was that the War Office were blundering into a policy, and hence their claim for urgency for this Bill. He heartily supported the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean, who advocated the old policy—for which they had been fighting for twenty years—and that was the influence of the element of time, which had never been recognised by the War Office. Cavalry and artillery took longer to train than infantry, and, therefore, in the nature of the case, they must in peace maintain regular cavalry and artillery at a higher proportion, numerically, than the infantry. The Government had never really accepted common-sense principles in their organisation. They had created what was called Imperial Yeomanry—a force which was neither Yeomanry nor Imperial. The title was only adopted to catch the public imagination and would not stand examination, because any proper consideration of the Yeomanry meant that you do not want this 35,000 men at all. He altogether objected to the right hon. Gentleman saying —"5,000 men will only cost you £25,000 and look what a Regular soldier will cost you." It was not a just argument, and therefore in Committee he should move the deletion of sub-Section 3 of the Bill. He had it from his right hon. friend that from the beginning to the end the Militia Reserve system was a bad one, and now he says—"You can apply the same principle, which has been found in practice to be bad to the Yeomamy." But says the right hon. Gentleman, "There is a very great difference. The Militia Reserve man was a private soldier who went into the regular Army for military service abroad; the individual unit of the Imperial Yeomanry is not a private soldier, he is subject to a different law." He saw no difference between the two. His right hon. friend tried to harmonise his arguments by saying that the Imperial yeoman will go with his own officer. Why could not the militiaman do the same? If that was a practical argument for the one it was practical for the other. We ought to have some explanation of this. How was it going to be arranged that the yeoman shall go with his own officer? They had two yeomanry cavalry regiments. In one they had only 494 ten men in the Yeomanry reserve, and in the other fifty men. How ware they going to arrange for the ten men to go with their own officer? His right hon. friend had no doubt a very large scheme in his head, but he had not explained to them where the difference between the Yeomanry reserve and the old Militia reserve was. In Committee ho would have to show them and give them definite proof that the principle was to be so different in its application to the Yeomanry reserve as compared with the Militia reserve to provide that the men shall always go with their own officers. He did not vote for the Adjournment of the debate, because he wished to hear what the Secretary for War was going to say, but had he known, as he now did, he certainly should have voted for it. With regard to the Militia part, he had not much to say except on the broad ground that it was carrying out a bad policy, but he objected to this provision in regard to the Imperial Yeomanry, because he thought it was throwing dust in the eyes of the people; because it would produce inferior cavalry units, and because this policy might be used by future Ministers to keep down the efficiency of the real Army.
§ (5.5.) MR. BECKETT
said that after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, the Bill seemed to have been divided into two parts. With regard to the Militia part of the Bill, for which both men and money had been voted, nothing could be said, but it was around sub-Section 3 that all the opposition concentrated, and considering that the Session was drawing to a close and there was not much time for the carrying through of this Bill, he would suggest to the Secretary of State that he should drop sub-Section 3 for the present, and be content with carrying the remainder of the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman would adopt that course he would find no opposition to the measure.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I am most anxious to meet the wishes of the House in a question of this kind. But although I am aware of the strong opposition entertained by my hon. friend and others to this particular sub-Section, I believe that if the subject were debated in a full House the proposal would 495 be strongly supported by military Members. I do not feel quite clear whether the occupants of the Front Opposition Bench would accept the other part of the Bill as of an uncontroversial character if I abandon for the time sub-Section 3. In the event of it being abandoned for the present it must be understood that I do not hold myself in any degree bound not to re-introduce it at the first opportunity. I believe that my hon. and gallant friend has misconceived what the effect of the sub-Section will be, but I realise that we are at a late period of the Session, and that strong objection has been taken to proceeding with the measure for that reason. If it is clearly understood that the first two sub-Sections are to be regarded as uncontroversial, namely, those which permit the Government to establish a Militia and Yeomanry reserve, and if it is made clear that men shall be allowed to remain on the books of the Yeomanry under the Militia Act, so that training may continue, I will try to meet the wishes of my hon. friends by dropping sub-Section 3. I should like, however, to have some assurance from the Front Bench, opposite with regard to this.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON () Newington, W.
said it was impossible to consider this Bill without, to some extent, looking at the whole scheme of Army reform of which this was a part. The reason for the opposition to it was that the majority of the Service Members of the House felt that the right hon. Gentleman would have had little necessity for this Bill if he had taken the opportunity when the country was ripe to make use of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and had placed himself in the position in which he might then have placed himself with reference to militia affairs. The proposal to transfer militia from one county to another altered the whole character of the force, both territorially and constitutionally. Of course, circumstances had altered in the last half century, and agricultural counties formerly able to produce large quantities of militiamen were not now in the same position, whilst other counties like Glamorgan were able, owing to the increase of population, to raise as many as six regiments; but the principle of transferring the men from one county 496 to another would result in muddling up the Militia in a manner never before known. One of the six Army Corps was to be supplied with cavalry from scrap squadrons from different Yeomanry regiments, an unsatisfactory force for a general officer to rely upon. He ventured to point out that it would be impossible to secure a force of the right character. There was a great distinction between mounted infantry and cavalry, and no absolute lessons could be drawn from the experience of the South African War. Scrap cavalry of this description would go down like ninepins before trained Continental cavalry. No fewer than 35,000 Yeomanry were to be raised, in order to obtain 5,000 efficient cavalry, and the remainder of the force would be of no value whatever in the event of their having to operate at home. What was needed in this country was a mobile striking force, and this Bill was beginning at the wrong end. Instead of pressing this Bill now, at the close of the session, it would be far better if the Government would hold it over until next session, when they were developing their entire system of Army reform.
§ SIR ARTHUR HAYTER
The right hon. Gentleman has made an appeal tome, and has, I think, made an extremely fair otter to this side of the House. I understand he proposed to drop sub-Section 3, Clause 1, for the present session only, if we withdraw the Amendment to read this Bill a second time this day three months. I may say on behalf of this side we will accept the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, and leave this discussion to a later date, and though we may move small Amendments we shall move no obstructive Amendments.
§ Amendment by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ COLONEL NOLAN () Galway, N.
desired to have some explanation of sub-Section 1. He quite understood that the War Office, or the Commander-in-Chief, might be able to transfer all the men of the Yeomanry, Volunteers, and Militia from one part to another, as it suited the Service, and that they were very impatient at the fancy some soldiers took for a particular regiment as against 497 another. He understood that under this Bill a militiaman could be transferred from one Militia regiment to another, with one exception. An infantry man could not be transferred to an artillery regiment, and an artillery man could not be transferred to an infantry regiment. But a Militia Reserve man could be transferred from a Galway or Mayo regiment to an Antrim regiment or a Yorkshire regiment. Did that rule appertain to all militiamen or only the Militia Reserve men? Because he did not want west-country men who had joined the militia of their county to be transferred to a northern regiment, where there might be some objection to their religion. He knew some regiments which had a very great objection to Catholics and would not allow them to join. Then with regard to the convenience of the men themselves, there were many who would be likely to suffer from such a transfer. There were many objections to men being called out and transferred to other regiments in other parts. Irishmen rightly or wrongly liked to be with their own regiments in Ireland. This Bill seemed to him to take this power to transfer, and he would like some explanation upon that point. He also wished to know whether a man in the Galway or Mayo Militia could when he joined the Reserve be transferred to an English regiment at the will of the Secretary of State or the Commander-in-Chief.
§ *(5.30.) COLONEL WELBY () Taunton
pointed out that in the latter part of sub-Section 1 militiamen were mentioned, but not yeomen. Was it intended to enable a yeoman in the Reserve to be transferred from one arm of the Service to another? He did not say that the principle was a bad one, but if a yeoman could be transferred to the artillery, engineers, or the Army Medical Department, it ought to be clearly stated.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said a yeoman could not be transferred to another arm, inasmuch as there was only one arm of the yeomanry.
§ COLONEL WELBY
had always understood the word "arm" to refer to a branch of the service. Technically it 498 did so, whatever might be its meaning in Parliamentary language. As to the point raised by the hon. Baronet, he understood sub-Section 2 to refer to the raising of Militia. Technically the Militia could be raised by Ballot unless the Ballot Act was suspended by the House. He therefore asked whether this sub-Section would bring the Yeomanry under the provisions of the Ballot Act.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
thought the Bill afforded a good instance of the way in which the War Office always mixed up a lot of rubbish with a little good work. There were many things that might have been done with regard to the Yeomanry and Militia, but this Bill simply tinkered with the question without affecting the important points. One of the chief reasons urged for the Bill was the scarcity of men in time of war. But did not that scarcity exist in time of peace? In some counties additional battalions of Militia could easily be raised, while the neighbouring counties were short of men, and if there had been inserted in the Bill a provision with regard to recruiting in other counties similar to that proposed in connection with the transfer of reserves, he believed many more recuits could be secured. There was one thing without which no Militia Bill was sound. Militia officers were almost unanimous in the opinion that it would not make the least difference in recruiting if the Militia were recruited to serve either at home or abroad in case of emergency. That would do away with the ridiculous and unsatisfactory farce of the so-called "volunteering" for foreign service. He was glad the proposal to take the Yeomanry for foreign service in sections was to be dropped. It was an impossible idea. If they were sent in companies, and under their own officers, a great deal might be done. By the amalgamation of corps it would be possible to arrange for the men to go out more or less with friends, and under officers whom they knew. If the same principle were applied with the Militia there would be no fear of the recruiting falling off, and the Bill would do more good. He agreed that it was a good thing to establish a Militia reserve, and he hoped it would fulfill all expectations. At present, however, the 499 rush for the Army and Militia had fallen off, and, unless the men were made more comforable, the required number of recruits would not be forthcoming. The question of having more mounted troops would have to be faced; and the Government would have seriously to consider the question of having regular corps of mounted infanntry as well as our present cavalry. He was pleased that the Bill was going through without opposition, as the Militia reserve was an excellent thing, and everybody agreed that, if the Yeomanry were to be efficient, they would have to be under the same discipline and training as the Militia in days gone by.
§ MR. TULLY () Leitrim, S.
thought Irish Members were entitled to some explanation of how this Bill would affect Ireland. Important alterations were to be made with regard to the Militia and Yeomanry, which might seriously concern many poor men in that country. Some time ago a Bill was rushed through the House without discussion, with the result that men who had previously joined the Militia found themselves liable for service in South Africa. The first Clause of the present Bill might have a similar effect, inasmuch as the proposal to transfer militiamen from one corps to another might mean that Irish-men would suddenly be transferred, without their previous knowledge or consent, from an Irish to an English Militia regiment. He did not think that militia who joined at Roscommon should be liable to be transferred to some English regiment, such as the Yorkshire or the Lancashire regiments. On theose grounds he thought they were entitled to some explanation from the noble Lord as to how this Bill would affect Irish regiments. They were prohibited in Ireland from having Volunteers, although some Yeomanry regiments were raised in Ireland during the recent war. A great many of the Yeomanry raised in Ireland had distinguished themselves in South Africa by the facility with which they surrendered to the Boers. If they were to have Yeomanry in Ireland, he wished to know whether they could be transferred to English and British regiments. The hon. Member for North Galway had asked for an explanation, and he hoped the noble Lord would give them some assurance on this point.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Lord STANLEY,) Lancashire, Westhoutghton
said this Bill would not affect Irish reservists or Militia reservists any more than English. Men, at the completion of ten years, could go into the reserve of the battalion to which they belonged. There were also in the Army a lot of men who, when they left the Army, were lost to the military service. They were to be asked to go into the Militia reserve to serve as a reserve for the whole of the Militia. There was no esprit de corps concerned at all, and they would be allotted amongst the various Militia regiments as required.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Tomorrow.