HL Deb 13 March 1896 vol 38 cc869-71

asked the Secretary of State for War whether it was in contemplation to extend the time of the regimental commands in the cavalry, household, and line regiments of Her Majesty's forces from four years to five years, in accordance with the privilege granted in past years in certain exceptionally favoured cases? He asked this question from no private or personal motive, but because the subject was one which occupied anxious attention. During the recess a statement appeared, which was neither contradicted nor confirmed, that the new Commander-in-Chief intended to extend the period from four to five years. The exceptional cases were well known.


said, it was not intended to make any change in the regulations affecting the tenure of regimental commands. These commands were held under the terms of the Royal Warrant, and the period was four years. But the Royal Warrant also laid it down that the Secretary of State might, on the special recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief, permit an extension of the term by a period not exceeding two years. The Commander-in-Chief informed him that he attached very great importance to this power of extension, and he was quite convinced that, although it would be most undesirable to use that power indiscriminately, it was essential in the interest of the Army that it should be applied in strictly suitable cases. There were many considerations which led him to that conclusion. Looking at it as a purely military question, it seemed to him obvious that to terminate the connection of a thoroughly efficient commanding officer at the end of the fourth year might in certain cases be most detrimental to the interests of the regiment. Then there were financial considerations which pointed in the same direction. They were all aware that the non-effective charges formed a heavy burden on the finances, and none of them liked to add to that needlessly. It was a very extravagant thing to drive on to the half-pay list prematurely, a colonel who had possibly obtained his promotion at an exceptionally early period, and who was still perfectly fit to discharge his duties. He was, of course, aware that there was another aspect of the case, and that this power of extension, if indiscriminately exercised, might seriously affect promotion. It was evident that if all the lieutenant-colonels were to obtain this exemption the promotion of officers of lower rank would be retarded, and many would be driven out of the Service at 48. He was able to tell the noble Lord that this aspect of the case would not be lost sight of, and whenever a case came up for consideration, they should bear in mind not only the commanding officer, but also the manner in which the extension of his term would affect the prospects of deserving officers of lower rank. The regulations would be administered solely in the interests of the efficiency of the Army, and not merely in the interests of any individual. [" Hear, hear!"]