HL Deb 16 February 1857 vol 144 cc693-7

THE EARL OF POWIS moved— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for a Return, showing the Years since 1815, in which the Yeomanry have not been assembled either for permanent Duty or training and Exercise; and also, Copy of any Circular from the Secretary of State to the Lords' Lieutenant of Counties as to the assembling of the Yeomanry during the present year. He had brought the matter forward by this Motion, because he wished to call the attention of the noble Lord the Secretary for War (Lord Panmure) to the fact, that it was impossible for the yeomanry to be in an efficient state of discipline, if they were not sufficiently often assembled for exercise and training. The nominal time of exercise was at present eight days; of this, one day was occupying in coming, another in going; then there was the review-day, and in the rest there was the Sunday—thus, in fact, there remained but four days of actual use. He thought that no one could dissent from him when he said that four days in two years was not a period of exercise and training sufficient to preserve the discipline and efficiency of a regiment of yeomanry, and they were consequently obliged to keep horses to enable them to perform their duties; those horses were not liable to duty if the corps was called out; now, he should like to know if any exemption would be made from that duty if a corps should not be called out for training? He could not conceive why this corps should not be called out during the present year, and he trusted that some explanation would be forthcoming on the subject. He observed also, that the Vote to be taken for the yeomanry in the other House was reduced from £88,000 to £77,000. What provision was there made for the exemption of this corps from the horse duty? Their Lordships well knew that every Member of the yeomanry was bound to assemble upon the requirement of the civil authorities and at any moment, and that attendance at such assemblage was enforceable by fine.


said, that there would be no objection to the first Return moved for by the noble Earl, but it would not be possible to produce the circular referred to in the latter part of the Motion, as, in point of fact, no circular had been despatched. When he had a seat in the other House of Parliament, he had always resisted the annual attacks made upon that corps, and he had not changed the opinion which he had then so frequently expressed, that they were a most valuable corps, not only from the uses which might be made of it, but from its affording to the gentlemen of England the opportunity, of which they were always desirous of availing themselves, of being serviceable, both in peace and war, to their country. At the same time, he thought that the Government might, without infringing upon what was due to that corps, when they were informed by the reports which they received that the yeomanry were in a highly efficient state, dispense with calling them out for one year. As regarded the probability expressed by the noble Earl, of the yeomanry being called out in aid of the civil power and proving inefficient, he could only say, that he saw not the slightest prospect, judging from the present aspect of things in the first place, and from the Police Act of last Session in the next, of their services or those of any military force being called for in aid of the civil power. With regard to the subject of a contingent allowance, in the case of their not being called out, for the horse duty, it was a subject to which he would give the most careful consideration.


regretted the course which the Government intended to adopt with regard to the yeomanry, as tending to impair their efficiency and discipline by depriving them of the advantage of drill and training. He also entirely disagreed with the noble Lord in thinking that the services of the yeomanry, in aid of the civil power, might not be required. In his own county, during the last year, the yeomanry were employed in preserving the peace of the county for six weeks, and they had most ably performed that duty; and he should be much grieved to see the efficiency of that corps deteriorate.


said, that under the circumstances it was really wonderful to see the discipline of the yeomanry corps. Great improvement had been made in the corps; but if a year were allowed to expire, it would be sure to go back. He did not see that it followed that because there was a county police force, the yeomanry would never be wanted. There were disturbances from year to year. This had always been the case, and must be so again. If there was to be a force for the security of the country, it ought to be kept in a state of efficiency. It would be bad policy if, for the sake of a paltry economy, the yeomanry should be left without the small amount of training they now received. He hoped that Her Majesty's Government would reconsider the question, because it was most important to retain in every county a body of men who could be relied upon to maintain the laws. He quite concurred with the noble Earl who moved for the Returns, that it would be impossible to keep the corps in a state of efficiency if it were kept for a whole year out of practice. Very little time was allowed for practice, even as matters then stood.


hoped that the Government would reconsider this question. At present the yeomanry of his county were in a most efficient state; but bow could it continue so if there were no proper means either of clothing or paying the yeomanry?


said, that he, also, was one of those who thought that the yeomanry corps was a most useful body, and essential to the due maintenance of order throughout the country. It seemed to be an impression among some noble Lords that the short period of training was of no use to the yeomanry; but if they could see the regiment with which he was connected on the first day of their exercise, and on the fifth they would speedily lose that idea. He took that opportunity of expressing a, hope that now the matter had been touched upon, the whole subject would be taken into the consideration of the Government.


said, that he had heard with great surprise the opinion of the noble Lord the Minister for War, that the yeomanry were never likely to be called out in support of the civil power. If they were not wanted for that purpose, he could not see of what use they were. But he had been lord-lieutenant of a county for many years, and during that time he had often known the yeomanry called out. He could not tell for what other purpose it was wanted. He had not distinctly understood from the noble Lord whether the yeomanry were to be called out or not; and he should be glad of a more definite; answer. And if they were not to be called out, whether the Government had made any definite rule upon the subject? whether there were to be any periodical callings out of the yeomanry, or whether it was to be left in doubt from year to year?


said, that with respect to the calling out of the militia, all he had said was that he hoped the time would never come when it would be called out in aid of the civil power; and he said that not only with regard to the militia, but also to other services of Her Majesty; and that he hoped the county police establishments would be a sufficient safeguard for the country. As to the years in which the militia would be called out, he had laid down no regular rule; but he hoped that next year there would be no more necessity for it than there was at present.


said, that less than the present amount of training would be a mere waste of money. So small an economy in the face of the large sums spent on the war was inconsistent. He did not see that the noble Lord had given any reason why the yeomanry should not be called out in the present year, for he thought that to deprive a yeomanry regiment of its drill for one year was, for all practical purposes, to disorganise it for two or three years. He was glad, however, to hear that the contingent allowances were to be continued. They could not apply the same rule to the yeomanry as to the army. In the army they had strict discipline and plenty of money; in the yeomanry it was different, and those who entered the force did so from reasons either personal or local.


said, that he felt some embarrassment in taking the subject from his noble Friend, but his position obliged him to state his views on the subject; besides which he held a commission in a distinguished regiment, commanded by a noble Lord not now in his place. As to the esprit de corps which had been alluded to, he had no doubt of it, from the sample which noble Lords had given tonight. Noble Lords, colonels of yeomanry, had risen to speak, whom he hoped that they should sometimes hear giving their opinions on other questions. He was anxious that no misapprehension should exist with respect to the decision of the Government to suspend the calling out of the yeomanry for the present year. That resolution had not been adopted as a permanent rule. The calling out of last year had showed that the force was in a high state of efficiency, while the country was in such a state of tranquillity that their services were not likely to be wanted, and there was every reason to hope that the purely civil force would be ample to meet any demands upon it. On the other hand, the country had made great sacrifices during the late war, and those sacrifices were not yet terminated; and that was a reason why no unnecessary expense should be incurred by calling out the yeomanry. It had been a precedent hitherto to allow a year to elapse between the callings-out of the militia, and if any year was to be chosen for that purpose, no year could be more convenient both with regard to economy and the public tranquillity than the present.

After a few words from Lord DE TABLEY,


observed, as to the police in the counties, that no general police Bill had yet been passed, and in his own county no large police was kept up.

Motion agreed to.