§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY Of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
If the House will allow me, I will say one or two words in explanation of this Bill. It consists of two Clauses and is a very small measure. By 333 it, we facilitate transfers in the Army from one unit to another. There is power at present for the Army Council to transfer soldiers from one unit to another three months after enlistment. This Bill gets rid of a limitation imposed by the words "three months," and makes it possible to have transfers during the progress of the War. It is not proposed to effect these transfers in time of peace. Then, the Clause does not affect any man who enlisted before 4th August last year. It gives power to general officers for the reduction of non-commissioned officers—either to a lower rank or to the rank of private. At present, as I dare say the House is aware, there is power in the hands of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief to remove—
§ Mr. TENNANT
The hon. Member is dealing with the first Clause. I am dealing with the second Clause. The first Clause is merely for transfer from one corps to another corps—transfers from one regiment of Infantry to another regiment of Infantry—or from one regiment of Cavalry to another regiment of Cavalry—transfers in the same branch of the Service. In regard to the power of reduction dealt with in the second Clause, that, as I say, is now a power of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, but inasmuch as it will be inconvenient always to have a reference of such cases to the Army Council, it has been considered desirable to delegate this power to certain officers commanding at home in camp in various parts of the country.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I wish to ask a question in regard to the first Clause. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any idea whether the option is to be given to the men to transfer? There are many cases in my own knowledge, in the last few months, where men who had enlisted in one battalion desire to transfer to another battalion. There is, at the present time, very great difficulty in getting that transfer. I do not know if this Bill will enable that transfer to be made, or if it will give the Army Council power to transfer them against their wishes from one corps to another, and I do not know whether the men will be better or worse—whether it will be easier for A.B. to transfer from the one in which he enlisted, to another, or easier for the War Office to transfer half a battalion of men to another battalion.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I think the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is really both. It is designed to give greater power to the Army Council to transfer men where such transfers seem to them desirable, and I am sure it does not require much imagination to picture such a condition of things. I think it may be fairly said that where a soldier desires a transfer that power is conferred under the Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to Committee of the Whole House for Tomorrow.