HL Deb 31 May 1881 vol 261 cc1770-4



said, he rose to call attention to paragraph 173 on page 31 of the Report on Army Reorganization of the Committee assembled under General Lord Airey; and to ask Her Majesty's Government how the difficulty pointed out in that paragraph of converting a militia battalion into a battalion of the line without legislative enactment is to be met; and further, whether the opinion of the law officers of the Crown has been taken as to the legality of converting a man who has been enlisted under Act of Parliament as a militiaman in a particular regiment into a soldier of the line? He felt he ought to apologize for raising a military subject so soon after the discussion they had had in their Lordships' House. The changes, however, which were to take place were of a most violent character and would affect the whole Service; and he could not help expressing his regret that the Secretary of State for War had kept to himself all the information he had got, instead of communicating it to Parliament for consideration by the Members of both Houses. He hoped, however, that the Government would not press forward their scheme until a fuller opportunity were given for an expression of opinion by those affected by the scheme as to its probable results. He contended that, in reality, the scheme had been sprung upon them without the slightest previous intimation to those immediately concerned as to what was to be its general bearing.


said, he must confess that after hearing the noble Earl's speech he had some difficulty in understanding his Questions. The noble Earl asked how it was proposed to convert a Militia battalion into a Line battalion without an Act of Parliament? He could only give the answer which the noble Earl anticipated, and characterized as jocular—he knew not why—for he gave it in sober earnest. It had never been the intention of the Government to convert a Militia battalion into a Line regiment, or a single Militiaman into a Linesman. Nor had they any idea of altering the conditions under which Militiamen joined the Service, or to ask for an Act of Parliament to enable them to do so. The paragraph of Lord Airey's Committee's Report, quoted by the noble Earl, referred to the recommendation of the Localization of Forces Committee of 1872, that in time of war recruits should be enlisted for general service in the Line or Militia battalion of a sub-district. Such a measure formed no part of Lord Cardwell's scheme, nor was there any intention of adopting it now. The Line and the Militia would continue, as at present, to be distinct Services. It was quite true that some legislation would be necessary on some technical points; but that would not in the slightest degree affect the conditions under which the Militia Force was raised.


said, that nothing could be worse than the way in which opponents of the Army Organization scheme had been treated by the Secretary of State for War. He did not also think that the measure itself had been treated with the justice and the amplitude which the vital importance of its nature and the welfare and success of the Army demanded.


said, he must protest against the careless man- ner in which documents in reference to proposed changes in the Army were prepared; and, as an instance, need not go further than a single item in the Book on the Table, in which appeared the pay given, or proposed to be given, to a superior non-commissioned officer exceeded that of the junior commissioned officers—by which the regimental sergeant-major would lose pay on promotion from the ranks. He must more forcibly, also, protest against the way in which irresponsible secret advisers of the Government sneered at officers of experience in regimental commands, their own experience being limited to some five years as a subaltern, and six months, or less, as a captain. Also, against the system by which both the Army and the Navy were placed under civilians, and the puerile way in which that House was treated on military questions, tending to, and resulting from, the system of jobbery that prevailed, which made the interests of the Army and the Navy subservient to political jobbery. He did not so much blame the Government as the system of jobbery which was due to the increased power in respect to patronage of the other House of Parment.


I rise to Order. The noble Lord is using language which I do not think is proper with regard to "another place." I trust that the noble Lord will withdraw the expression he has used.


said, he had no desire to say anything improper with regard to "another place." He found fault rather with the system than with the Government. He was, however, quite ready to withdraw the objectionable expression if it was the feeling of their Lordships that he should do so; but he submitted that the Government should take steps to render what he complained of impossible.


said, he attributed the defects in our Army Organization to the fact that a civilian was, by the custom of Parliament, placed at the head of, the Army.


said, he thought that it was unnecessary he should apologize for being, as a civilian, at the head of the Navy. He could not refrain from protesting against what the noble and gallant Lord (Lord Strathnairn) had said in reference to the line which had been taken by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in "another place," because there was no foundation for the impressions entertained by the noble and gallant Lord. Their Lordships were now asked to reopen a question which had been discussed for several hours the other night, when ample opportunity was given for any noble Lord to address the House. Ample opportunity had been given to both Houses of Parliament for any discussion or Motion that might have been considered desirable with regard to the changes which were proposed. Those changes did not depend upon an Act of Parliament, but upon the Prerogative of the Crown; and there had been ample opportunity for moving an Address to the Crown, or taking any other steps which noble Lords might have thought necessary.


said, that the second Memorandum, which it was stated would be laid upon the Table, making alterations in the first Memorandum, was not yet before their Lordships; and he thought it a little hard that, considering the changes would take effect on the 1st July, the military men of the House should have so short a time allowed for raising any points they might wish to bring forward upon it.


said, that the second Memorandum referred to changes in detail, and did not, so far as he was aware, affect the principle of the scheme in any way.


, as matter of Privilege, called attention to that part of the noble and gallant Earl's speech in which he (the Earl of Galloway) alluded to The Times publishing the projects of the Government before they were laid before Parliament. He pointed out the great unfairness in not reporting the remarks of the noble Earl near him (the Earl of Powis), on moving for a Return on the subject of five years' inaction incapacitating a general from employment. He did not say this to curry favour with the noble Earl, though he had been a pupil of his friend Dr. Selwyn (late Lord Bishop of Lichfield), but in order that truth might be placed before the public. Their Lordships might reflect that if peace were to last for 10 years no one above the rank of a colonel now might be able to command a force. General Kavanagh had lately depicted the danger of shelving officers who, although old, might be far more active than their juniors, whilst invaluable by their experience. The retirement of colonels at the age of 55 was under consideration. He himself, three-quarters of a century old, was willing to compete with any of their Lordships in some athletic exertions or any struggle for the maintenance of truth, whilst he had known a man of 30 unable even to shave himself. No one could report their Lordships' debates without the leave of the House, and the Usher of the Black Rod had the right to give or withhold admission to the Reporters' Gallery, in the same way as the Speaker of the House of Commons could allot space to each journal. He (Lord Denman) had, on June 6, 1856, pointed out the power of the public even over The Times, and had never been fairly reported by that journal since, having a few words, seemingly not worth a report, attributed to him with his name. He did not care for being reported, but wished to see nothing reported but the truth.

After a few words from the Earl of GALLOWAY,

The subject dropped.

CUSTOMS AND INLAND REVENUE BILL. Read 2a (according to order); Committee negatived: Then Standing Order No. XXXV. considered (according to order), and dispensed with: Bill read 3a, and passed.

STATIONERY OFFICE (CONTROLLER'S REPORT). Select Committee appointed, such Committee to consist of five Lords, "to consider the First Report of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office."—(The Lord Thurlow.) And, on June 2, the Lords following were named of the Committee:

E. Jersey. L. Thurlow.
V. Sherbrooke. L. Monteagle of Brandon
L. Clinton.

And a message sent to the Commons to acquaint them that this House has appointed a Committee of five Lords to join with a Committee of the Commons "to consider the first Report of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office;" and to request that the Commons will be pleased to appoint an equal number of Members to be joined with the Members of this House.

House adjourned at Seven o'clock, to Thursday next, a quarter before Five o'clock.