HC Deb 20 February 1908 vol 184 cc1176-88

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question proposed [11th February], "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the First Resolution," That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the ending on the 31st day of March, 1908, for additional Expenditure in respect of the following Army services viz.:—

Vote 5. Volunteer Corps, Pay, Allowances, etc.—

E. (a) Grants for the Extinction of Debts 350,000
E. (b) Expenses of County Associations 8,000
Less Surpluses on other Votes 357,900
100' "

Question again proposed.


asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether he was yet in a position to make any statement as to whether the County Associations under the Territorial Army scheme would receive any grants in excess of those which had been already promised? There had been various rumours, but not one word had been heard from an official source, that it was probable that this grant might be increased, largely owing to the representations made in both Houses of Parliament, and from various parts of the country. If the hon. Gentleman was able to give them any information upon that subject, he (Mr. Cavendish) was quite certain that he would do a very considerable amount towards assisting and helping on the formation of these Associations through the country. The second point to which he wished to draw attention was one of which he had a somewhat peculiar knowledge, because he had the privilege and honour of being chairman of one of the County Associations, and he felt in a somewhat difficult position in regard to it. He would only take what had happened that day. That evening he received a large batch of correspondence with "urgent and confidential" marked on it, and he found it was entirely confined to military details, the questions in regard to which could only be answered by the commanding officers of the regiments and their adjutants, after consulting the necessary books. Yet they were requested to send in the answers, if possible, not later than Saturday next. It was perfectly obvious that, with the regiments scattered over a large area, it was quite impossible, with the immense amount of information which would have to be collected, for him to be able to forward the information, with the best will in the world. He had taken steps already, and luckily there was to be a meeting on the following day of the commanding officers of the three units in the county for which he was responsible, and whether it was prejudicial to the word "confidential" or not, he had placed the papers before them, and he hoped they would be able to furnish him with some answer. He would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if it would not be possible to take the County Associations a little more into the confidence of the Government? They had had voluminous papers sent them, dealing with an immense mass of details. But he had only been able to obtain one or two copies of these, and the matters referred to therein required most careful working out. They all wished to give all the information they could, and to assist the movement, but these matters needed most careful investigation on the part of the military officers responsible. It would assist the formation of the Associations to a very considerable extent if they could have more than one or two copies. The only other point was a matter which, he thought, had been already very clearly brought to the attention of the War Office, viz., the form of attestation. At one o'clock in the morning he did not think it was necessary for him to deal with it at any considerable length, or even make more than a passing reference to it. Could the hon. Gentleman give the House any further information on that point. Was it to be left in its existing form; was any change contemplated? He certainly did not wish now to criticise it; criticism had already been made elsewhere and in the Press. There was a great deal in that criticism which he supported, and he felt sure it would be greatly to the interest, both of the House and of the country, if the hon. Gentleman could give them the desired information.


asked a question with reference to the pay given to the cavalry soldier of the Territorial Force. He reminded the House that within the last two or three days he had asked a Question of the Secretary of State for War as to whether compensation would be given in the case of the loss of or damage to a soldier's hired horse during permanent duty? The answer he got was that no compensation would be paid by the Government in respect of loss or damage to horses used by the Territorial Army. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that a grant of £5 for fifteen days made to the County Associations (as against £5 for sixteen days hitherto paid) would enable the Association to take any steps (such as insurance) necessary to provide against damage or loss to hired horses. In the case of officers or men riding their own horses, it was provided that the £5 should be paid over to the officer or man on the same terms as those on which the Association received it. When the Territorial Army Bill was under discussion in that House, it was stated by the Secretary of State for War, by the Financial Secretary, and by the hon. Member for the Richmond Division of Yorkshire, that the £5 horse allowance granted to the Imperial yeoman was a part of his pay. Now he saw that the right hon. Gentleman said that the £5 was to be paid to the Association for the general purposes of the Association, not to the man as part of his pay. Thus there would be an appreciable difference between the pay of the Imperial yeoman and that of the cavalry soldier of the Territorial Force. It seemed to him that it was an unheard of way of reducing the pay, and it certainly was not understood by the House to be so stated by the Secretary of State for War, and the other two hon. Members to whom he had referred, who were his coadjutors during the time the Bill was under discussion. Was it the case that this reduction of pay was to be added to the other reduction of pay, which would fall on the Imperial yeoman who enlisted in the Territorial Force? His pay hitherto had been 5s. 6d. a day; it would now be reduced to 2s. 8d. a day. If this sum, which had been looked upon as horse allowance, in addition to part of his pay, was to be reduced, he thought it would be another deterrent to the yeoman taking on with the Territorial Force. He would remind the hon. Gentleman that no chance should be thrown away of endeavouring to persuade the Imperial yeoman to join the Territorial Force. They were not overburdened with men, and no effort should be spared to add to the Territorial Force; but if this reduction of pay took place, it would discourage the men. The reduction was quite unprecedented, and up to that time there had never been a case in which there had been a reduction in the pay in the units of the British Army. The yeoman would resent this reduction and it would very naturally occur to him that if he was worth 5s. 6d. this year, it was very hard that he should be worth only 2s. 8d. next year.

*MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Rye)

wished to add one word to what his right hon. friend had said about the attestation form, and he did so, not with the slightest desire to go into any detail, as the House was familiar with the matter, but because he did not think His Majesty's Government realised how serious was the question involved. Officers in the existing Volunteer Force were required to ascertain whether their men would continue to serve, and whether they would join the Territorial Force. In his own case he was supposed to make a Return on March 6th, and the men very naturally wanted to know the conditions of service and the form of oath they would be required to take. There was no time to be lost. The Government had said they were establishing a Committee to consider the form of attestation. He had asked when the Committee would be set up, but owing to the regrettable absence of the Secretary of State for War, the Question could not be answered, and he was requested to put it again next week. There was one week of the fortnight gone. Then, he supposed, the Committee would sit for some weeks and then another attestation form would be drawn up. The case was much too urgent to be delayed. Why could not the Government draw up a form of attestation in an hour with the bare minimum of the questions which it was absolutely necessary to ask? Not only was this difficulty arising with the Volunteers now serving, but this was the time of year when most of the best recruiting was done. They got their recruits in from the middle of January to the middle of March. This matter was being talked about all over the place, and recruits would not take the form of oath which the new attestation form required. They were not going, suddenly and contrary to all their previous expectations, to come in and take an oath which would compel them to serve anywhere, when required; they would not do it. He would go so far as to say that very few of the Volunteer officers who were at present serving would submit that attestation form to their men. He would not, for one, and the whole territorial scheme would fall to pieces unless this was dealt with in the course of the next few days. The matter was one of extreme urgency, and for the War Office to waste weeks on a matter of this kind, which the Secretary of State for War could draw up in a few minutes himself was the height of folly. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman representing the War Office that evening would be able to give them some satisfactory assurance that they who wished to do their best, as everyone did, to bring recruits in and to pursuade men, who were good Volunteers now, to go on and form the new Territorial Force, might have a chance of meeting with some success, and that the territorial scheme might have some prospect of success, instead of a certainty of failure.


apologised for the absence of the Secretary of State for War, owing to his being on the sick list. Dealing with the matter of the attestation form he said that the Secretary of State informed the House on Monday that the Committee was immediately to come together, in order to consider this subject, and frame a form of oath on the best and most experienced advice competent to deal with the subject. He could assure the House that there would be no delay whatever in the matter, and as had been already promised it would be speedily dealt with. He did not think he could add anything in answer to the Question, beyond that the matter was receiving the very careful consideration of the authorities of the War Office and the Secretary of State, who, he was sure, would be able to find a satisfactory solution. With regard to the Question of the noble Lord, as to the horse allowance, the proposal was that the allowance of £5 per horse was to be paid over to the Association, who were to hire the horses. The man who brought his own horse was to get the £5 paid over to him, and out of that, he thought, he was expected to find insurance for his horse. So far, he understood it to be said that he was in a worse position than before. He was sorry the noble Lord had not given him some intimation of his intention to bring this question forward, so that he could have inquired into the matter.


said his point was that the £5 per horse was to be paid now to the Association, whereas it used to be paid to the man as part of his pay.


said that the noble Lord was much more intimately acquainted with the Yeomanry than he was, but he believed the £5 was to be paid over to the Associations, as stated. With regard to the document marked "Urgent and confidential," referred to by the right hon. Member for West Derbyshire, he explained that the War Office found it necessary in respect to the many details which had to be settled, to send out, in confidence, what were the draft proposals, but which were not absolutely settled, to the chairmen of the Associations, asking them in confidence for their opinions. He could assure the House that within the next week, or very shortly, he hoped to be able to issue to all the Associations—in full detail, and no longer as confidential documents—the detailed memoranda, upon the various points relating to financial regulations. With regard to the question which had been constantly pressed on them, as to the insufficiency of the sum proposed to be devoted for establishment charges, they had considered the matter very seriously in conjunction with those best qualified to know. They had come to the conclusion that they had made out, to a certain degree, their case, and the Government were prepared to increase the amount for the establishment charges which they proposed to give to the Associations. He did not feel entitled at that moment to name the figure, but it was a substantial increase. Although they had the consent of the Treasury, they had not the written consent, and therefore he thought it would not be proper at that moment to go into further details; but he was perfectly certain that in substance, at any rate, it would be in accordance with the amount proposed to them by the various Associations of the country.

COLONEL SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)

said he did not know that that question would have been raised that evening; but as that was the last opportunity they would have to ask the War Office to remedy what he thought was a very grave mistake, and which really meant in his judgment a breach of faith with that House, he would like to make a few remarks. They found now that in the case of the Yeomanry, the insurance for the horses would have to be paid by the men themselves. There had been a reduction in the pay of the Yeomanry—a thing, they were told, which had never happened in the last 300 years. With very great difficulty those belonging to these forces had got their men to continue their services, and to take part in this great patriotic movement. They had believed that their pay would be continued. They had got them with very great difficulty, and row came this further reduction of pay, which had never been mentioned before, and which no one dreamt of when the Bill was passed. It was resented by the men, and it was resented in all quarters of that House, as a little bit of petty cheeseparing, which might ruin the cavalry of the Territorial Force. There was a great advantage in the Government taking the insurance, because the further they spread their risk, the less the cost would be. To show how much that was the case, instructions had been sent in some counties to the General Officers Commanding, that the insurance should be spread over the whole county, thus reducing the cost. But how much better it would be to spread it all over the country! He appealed for the last time and with confidence to the hon. Member representing the War Office, not on the ground of economy—though that was strong—but on the ground of keeping faith with a body of men endeavouring to serve the State to the best of their ability. They had reduced their pay far more than they had ever reduced the pay of any other men who served their country; and now, when Parliament was not sitting, they had insisted on their making up the insurance themselves. He begged the Government to withdraw this Order.


congratulated the hon. Gentleman on the fact that the amount of the establishment charges was to be increased, because it was universally thought amongst Volunteer officers that the Government had offered a very inadequate sum to carry on the administrative work of the battalions. When were they to have the amended figures? It was very urgent that they should have them at once. The Act came, into operation on the 31st of March, and there they were, almost at the end of February, past the eleventh hour, unable to secure secretaries for the County Associations, because they did not know how much they would be able to pay them. The whole success of the scheme, as regarded the County Associations, depended on the man who was to be the secretary. If it were to be a case of an inadequate pittance, to be paid to some retired officer, the County Association would be at a disadvantage, and they could not insist on getting the right man. If the figures were not issued as rapidly as possible, the appointments would be left over to the last minute and the result would be failure; the War Office would then say that it was the fault of the County Associations, because they had mismanaged and muddled the thing, and that it was not their own fault in waiting till the last minute to tell the County Associations what they intended to do.

COLONEL HERBERT (Monmouthshire, S.)

said he had a clear recollection of the discussion which took place both in and outside of that House last year, and he could not conceive what had entered into the brains of any of the officials of the War Office this year, that at this late hour they should suddenly spring this cheese-paring economy upon them. He could assure the hon. Member that there was nothing more calculated to destroy what little enthusiasm would have been raised in the country, than this sort of regulation. In Wales also they had their grievances, but he would spare the House at that late hour. They were to have had the honour of a conference with the Secretary of State that day, but it had had to be postponed and he hoped they might have it in a very short time. Red-tapeism had threatened to strangle the enthusiasm that was rising in the country, and he could assure the hon. Member that if this conduct continued it would have a most serious effect upon the possible success of the scheme for which all of them, on both sides of the House, wished to do their best.

MR. CARLILE (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)

asked whether some arrangement could not be made for retaining the non-commissioned officers in some of the battalions, half of which he understood were to be disbanded. He had a case before him in connection with the 1st Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers. That magnificent battalion had at present sixteen companies, and eight of those companies were to disappear under the proposal of the Secretary of State for War. Some 100 non-commissioned officers, in the half of that battalion which was to be disbanded, would be turned adrift. They had, many of them, been a number of years in that or other battalions; some of them had as much as nineteen years service, and had been hoping that they would have an opportunity of obtaining the Volunteer Decoration Now, through no fault of their own, these non-commissioned officers—reliable and excellent Volunteers as they were—were to be turned adrift, and would lose an opportunity of gaming this decoration, or of continuing to serve their King and country. It seemed a very unnecessary thing that this should be allowed to happen. He could not understand why the right hon. Gentleman could not retain the noncommissioned officers upon the strength of the remaining companies, or make some other arrangements by which their services might be retained for the country. The men felt the humiliation very strongly, and he thought the least that could be done under the circumstances, if it were really necessary to cut down these excellent battalion, was that the services of the non-commissioned officers should' be in some way or other retained for the benefit of the country. It was a deplorable thing that those who were willing to serve should be precluded from the opportunity of doing so, while at the same time they had any quantity of people in this country who would not do an hour's work, or raise a finger to put themselves to any inconvenience in order to qualify themselves for any evil day which might come upon them. It seemed part of this policy of cheese-paring to which he referred a few days ago. Surely these men could be kept on the strength of the other battalions, and not be exposed to the humiliation of being shot out of the service. He hoped and trusted the hon. Gentleman in charge of these Estimates might have something to say to them about this matter, so that they might be reassured. He was sure the country as a whole would not endorse with any satisfaction a policy which made it impossible for these men to continue to serve with their colours.


said he could reassure the hon. Member that non commissioned officers would be retained as supernumeraries. With regard to the question raised about the Yeomanry, he would communicate to the Secretary of State the views that had been expressed that night, and doubtless he would deal with the matter. With regard to the Question of the noble Lord opposite, he hoped the figures would be out at a very early date indeed. He had given the reasons why he could not name them at this moment, but the increase was substantial, and he thought it would be satisfactory.

*MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)

asked the hon. Member to call the attention of the Secretary of State for War to the question of the separation allowance for privates. He was perfectly well aware that every hon. Member was pressing the War Office for further expenditure on the Army, whilst the House collectively pressed for a reduction of the expenditure. As there was in his own constituency a good deal of feeling on this point, he hoped, however, that the Financial Secretary would' bring it before the Secretary of State.

MR. CLEMENT EDWARDS (Denbigh District)

Will what was said by the, hon. Gentleman as to the retention of non-commissioned officers as supernumeraries apply to the non-commissioned officers of the Militia battalion?


I cannot answer that Question now.

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