HC Deb 14 July 1909 vol 7 c2030

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that there are no rifles, ammunition, or uniforms for the hundreds of thousands of retired trained men over 21 years of age, he can say how many boys there are in the Territorial Army under 20 years of age to whom the safety of the country against invasion is now entrusted?

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Haldane)

I have already pointed out to the hon. Member that munitions of war are useless for an unorganised force. I do not know what the hon. Member has in his mind when he refers to boys under 20. In the Regular Army there are many who serve before the age of 20, and the Government would be very foolish if they limited the Territorial Force, as the hon. Member seems to suggest, to men over 20.


Does the right hon. Gentleman admit that on account of the age of many of the units, and its insufficient numbers and training, that the great military commanders who are free to speak their minds have definitely stated the Territorial Army is a sham, and quite useless against invasion. May I further ask if the right hon. Gentleman recognises——


Order, order. The question rather takes the form of a speech.


Does the right hon. Gentleman express the view expressed in the closing part of the question that the safety of the country against invasion is entrusted to the Territorial Army?


No; certainly not wholly so. In an island like ours the command of the sea is a vital force.


Did not a late First Lord declare that the scheme was a gamble?


I do not know what other people have said, but I do know what the hon. Member has said very frequently.