HC Deb 05 March 1903 vol 118 cc1554-6
*MR. MORRELL (Oxfordshire, Woodstock)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War, whether his attention has been directed to the deficiency in the number of officers holding commissions in the Militia and Volunteers, as notified by comparing this number with that set out for the establishment; whether he is aware of any causes for this deficiency;—also whether, with a view to increasing the number of applicants for commissions, he will consider the advisability of taking steps to reduce the expenses to which officers are subjected in maintaining their companies.


Yes, Sir. The deficiency of officers in the Militia and Volunteers has long been a subject of serious concern. In 1889 the Militia were 251 officers short; establishment, 3,575. In 1895 deficiency had increased to 530 officers short; establishment, 3,515. In 1898 deficiency had increased to 728 officers short; establishment, 3,446. In 1903 deficiency had increased to 743 officers short; establishment, 3,400. Thus there is a constantly increasing deficiency, with a decreased establishment. In the Volunteers there has always been a large shortage of officers, but this has rapidly increased with the increase of establishment. In 1886, 1,226 wanting; establishment, 7483. In 1896, 1,654 wanting; establishment, 7,749. In February, 1902, 1,989 wanting; establishment, 9,379. In February, 1903, 2,147 wanting; establishment, 9,409. From 1896 to 1898 there was an improvement in the numbers of Volunteer officers, possibly due to the grant of an allowance for uniform by the War Office; but it will be seen that the shortage in the Militia, which is nearly 22 per cent., and in the Volunteers 23 per cent., must seriously militate against the efficiency of both forces. The deficiency of Volunteer Officers is of long standing, and has steadily increased with the increases of establishment. If the Army Order issued at the close of 1901, imposing greater demands on the Volunteers, has caused a diminution, it can only be up to now to the extent of about 1½ per cent. I cannot doubt that the pecuniary liability which falls on Volunteer officers in some regiments is an important factor in a result which greatly impairs the value of our auxiliary forces; and in view of this and other circumstances involving the future of both these forces, the Government have advised the King to issue a Royal Commission to enquire into the pay, terms of service, and efficiency of the Militia and Volunteer Forces, and to report whether any, and what, modification is necessary in existing conditions.