HL Deb 18 February 1898 vol 53 cc1001-28

My Lords, I rise to call attention to the national importance of maintaining the Militia force at its established strength, and of the Militia Reserve being, as intended by its originator, the late General Peel, and as recommended by the Militia Committee of 1877, borne in excess of the Militia establishment. Those of your Lordships who fail to view with satisfaction the general state of our Military organisation, especially with reference to home defence, must, I think, have greatly rejoiced in the winter, when they read the speech of my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War. The speech I refer to was delivered in Edinburgh, and it showed that my noble Friend had cast aside those spectacles, so rosy tinted, through which his predecessors, and Secretaries of State for War generally, were in the habit of looking at matters connected with their department. It was a very frank, a very honest, and a very able speech. I do not know what led my noble Friend to come to the conclusion that things are not quite so satisfactory as they might be in the Army—whether it was the sniping by the Afridis, or the sniping in the Press. I rather believe it is due to his own good sense, and his insight into, and knowledge of, the Army and his office. But, be that as it may, we are thankful, my Lords—at any rate, those of us who feel strongly as to the necessity of something being done with reference to our Army organisation—thankful to my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War for his speech; confirmed as it is by the Gracious Speech from the Throne, in which it was announced that Army matters are to occupy the attention of Parliament. My Lords, we can now say of the War Office, e pur si muove, and as the War Office is on the move I should like to ask in what direction my noble Friend intends to move. Will my noble Friend take the opportunity which is now offered to him and to this country, before any evil comes of it, to put our Military organisation at home on a really sound footing? In 1871, when Mr. Cardwell brought forward his Army Regulation Bill, he said he intended to lay the foundation of an Army system which would be so strong and secure that panic, or the apprehension of panic, would in the future be absolutely unknown. We are thus anxious to know whether my noble Friend will take this opportunity of doing what Mr. Cardwell failed to do. It will be remembered that Mr. Cardwell dropped out of his Bill matters of home defence, and went in for short service, the district system, and the abolition of purchase. Will my noble Friend then take this opportunity—this Sybilline opportunity—perhaps the last that will be offered to us—of putting the Military strength of this country, especially with regard to home defence, on a sure and safe foundation? Will he put our existing Military system in force? What is our Military system? I read the other day that a good friend and county neighbour of mine—the Leader of the House of Commons, Mr. Balfour—in presenting prizes to some Volunteer corps, spoke of our "imperfect Military system." I venture to dispute that statement of Mr. Balfour's. It is not the system that is imperfect; it is imperfect only in its administration. I believe that our Military system, having regard to the country's position as an insular Power, is the most perfect that the genius of man could have devised for all its purposes. What, my Lords, is our Military system? The Military system, is this: You have a Regular Army, ready for service anywhere and everywhere, which has been raised, as it ought to be, by voluntary enlistment. It would be impossible to send men compulsorily to swelter in the swamps of West Africa, to roast on the plains of India, or to freeze up in those mountains of the Afridi country, on the Afghan Frontier. That is a voluntary matter. Then you have a totally different Army, raised under totally different circumstances for a totally different purpose—namely, for home defence. This is commonly called the Militia. It is an old constitutional force, which was rightly raised by compulsion, and which can be recruited compulsorily by ballot, on the principle that the State has a right to call on every one of her subjects to stand forward, if needs be, in defence of the country. Lastly, my Lords, you have the Volunteer force, which represents those who, unwilling to take their chance of service in the Militia, serve their country voluntarily in another form. My Lords, look at these three different divisions of your Military system. So far from, being imperfect, it is the most perfect system that could be devised, and the fault—it cannot be too often repeated—is not in the system, but in its administration, or, rather, in its non-administration; for we are the only country in the world which has a, Military system which is not administered, and which is allowed to remain in abeyance. That is the case now with our Military system, But, believing it to be essentially sound, I say, in the name of common-sense, do not change it. In the name of duty enforce it. I have said the Militia is the basis of our military system. Its capabilities are great, and its services have been great, and may be greater if properly used. Its capabilities are these: A man who joins the Militia can enter the Militia Reserve for the Army, or he can go into the Army itself. That is as an individual. The Militia, as a regiment, can be embodied and volunteer for foreign service also if they choose. We know, my Lords, what good service Militia regiments have rendered us by manning, in times of war, Mediterranean garrisons to the relief of the Regular Army. As to their efficiency and value, I have here, my Lords, a statement made by the greatest authority. It is a passage from a speech made by the Duke of Wellington in your Lordships' House, in support of the Militia Bill of 1852. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to read that passage. In the beginning of his speech the noble Duke said he distrusted very much getting a satisfactory Army of Reserve, but I do not intend to touch upon questions with reference to the Army; I will confine myself absolutely to the discussion with reference to the Militia. The Duke of Wellington said— But what I desire—and I believe it is a desire the most moderate that can be formed—is that you should give in the first instance the old Constitutional establishment which you have got, that then you may do as you please. The noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne) says very truly that these 150,000 Militiamen will not be fit for service in six months, or in 12 months, or in 18 months, but I say they will be fit at all events for some service, and certainly they will enable you to employ in the field others who are fit for service. In the last war we have had in service several regiments of Militia, and they were in as high a state of discipline, and as fit for service, as any men I ever saw in my life. It is quite impossible to have a body of troops of higher order, or in higher discipline than those bodies of British Militia were at the commencement of the present century, and up to 1810. He then goes on to say that— There were at Waterloo 16 battalions of Hanoverian Militia—just formed—who, under the Hanoverian Ambassador, Count Kilmansegge, behaved admirably. The Duke ended thus— I recommend you to adopt this measure as a commencement of a completion of your peace establishment. It will give you a Constitutional force. It will not be at the first, or for some time, everything we could desire, but by degrees it will become what you want—an efficient auxiliary force to the Regular Army. Those were, I believe, the last words of any importance uttered by the noble Duke in this House, for the speech was made in the Session of 1852, and before the close of that year the noble Duke was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. Now, my Lords, I think I have quoted enough to show that in the opinion of the highest practical authority we could possibly have, the Militia is capable of admirable service in the field. The Militia, then, is, I say, the basis of our military system, but on what does the Militia itself rest? It rests on the principle of compulsion. If you had a system of compulsion for home defence—for the Militia—you would have the Militia, always full and you would not have the competition which now goes on for recruits between the Militia and the Regular Army. You would, in addition to that, have a screw on the Volunteers, such as would enable you to make them much more efficient than under their present system of service. This would do all you want with a view to efficiency in your Army for home defence. I know that in this House the idea is held that the Militia ballot would be so unpopular in the country that the tenure of office of any Government which proposed it would not be worth a moment's purchase. I dispute that; and when thus advocating compulsory home service, I would quote authorities in favour of Militia ballot. Lord Sidmouth, in 1807, said— Auxiliary means must be resorted to. These are partly to be derived from the zeal and spontaneous exertions of a large portion of the community, and from the application of the principle solemnly established by the Act of 1803, of the right of the State to demand the military service of all or any members of the community for the purpose of domestic defence. Sir James Graham's Committee on Army Organisation in 1860, said that— In the event of war the Army, the Marines and the Militia must be largely and suddenly augmented. It is a grave question whether reliance can be safely placed in such an emergency, however large may be the bounty, on Voluntary enlistment only. If Volunteering failed, the danger to the State would be imminent. The other authorities are the Recruiting Commission of 1867, who said that— Departing from the compulsory system for the Militia, the recruiting for the Army had been interfered with. Lord Dalhousie, in 1867, who said that— he was certain that any Government bold enough to put the compulsory system into operation in place of the voluntary system, would find himself supported by the voice of the country and the Press. and Lord Longford, who said that— to be very successful, the basis of an Army of Reserve, by whatever name it may be called, must be that of conscription. Then I have a letter written by Sir James Scarlett, in which he says— I am glad my report is favourably received, by the Volunteers. I intended to do justice, and no more. I consider the force of the utmost consequence, but it must be backed by the ballot for the Militia to render it really efficient. Sir James Scarlett wrote this letter after an Easter Monday Brighton Review, when he had inspected the Volunteers. I have also a letter from Sir William Mansfield, afterwards Lord Sandhurst. In it Sir William said— In reply to the inquiry made by you in your note of yesterday—namely, as to whether I think it desirable that the ballot should be applied to the raising of the Militia for the Home Defence, I beg to intimate a very strong opinion that some measure, resting on a principle of national obligation, as distinguished from individual option, is demanded, to put our forces generally on a sound and secure footing. I think, my Lords, that such opinions as these are conclusive. What is the state of the Militia? It is never up to its establishment; generally 20,000 to 30,000 short; and when you consider that, my Lords, I think it is manifest that great good would arise to the Militia and the nation from the adoption of this system of compulsory service. Further, I venture to think that this national obligation might be imposed on the people of this country in a way that would be so little interfering with their liberty that I do not think there would be any objection raised to it. How might it be applied in the simplest way? Thus: Under the old law men up to, I think, 45 years of age were liable, and they might provide substitutes I do not think substitutes should be allowed at all; the only substitution allowed should be service in another form. Then I would confine the operations of the ballot to youths of the age of 20. Thus every young man at the age of 20 should run the chance once in his life of having to serve in the Militia, unless he could show that he was serving his country in some other form—say, in the Navy, the Army, or the Volunteer force. This would undoubtedly be the best thing for the nation in strengthening our home defence, while the system, would have a very beneficial effect on our youth, both physically and morally, alike on the golden youth of St. James' and on the loafing "'Arries" of Whitechapel. I think then everything points to the desirability of reviving the old constitutional principle that every man is liable to serve his country, either by compulsion or voluntarily. My Lords, I do not know that there is anything more I need add to what I have said with reference to this point, except this: I do not know whether it has occurred to your Lordships that there is a great advantage in fixing 20 as the age when a man would have to take his chance of ballot for the Militia, that being an age at which the application of the principle would not touch a single voter in the United Kingdom; as it is only when a man reaches 21 years of age he becomes entitled to a vote. What I have suggested is a contingent advantage that may not interest your Lordships, but which, I think, may have a certain influence in certain quarters, judging from all one hears. My Lords, in arguing as I have done in favour of a strong home Army, I have assumed the possibility of an invasion, and I do not think there is any sane man—any statesman, at any rate—who has not and does not admit the possibility of such a thing. Lord Palmerston, in 1852, said— It would be madness to rely entirely upon our ships to prevent the landing of a hostile force. The Duke of Wellington, in a letter to Sir John Burgoyne, said in 1847— I am bordering on 77 years of age, passed in honour. I hone that the Almighty will protect me from being the witness of the tragedy which I cannot persuade my contemporaries to take measures to avert. I venture, then, to think, my Lords, that you must assume the possibilities of an invasion taking place, and looking back at the history of the early years of the century in connection with these matters, it is interesting to note the extent to which preparations were then made for the invasion of England. In 1797 the Directory thought it would be desirable to attempt an invasion of England, and General Bonaparte was to be at the head of the invading army, but, on inquiry, be thought the risks then were too great, and the idea was abandoned. In 1801 Napoleon himself made preparation for the invasion of England, but peace put an end to the idea then; but it was immediately afterwards, in 1803, revived, and I was astonished to find that 150,000 men were collected opposite our shores, and that all things necessary for their embarkation was ready—guns, provisions, ammunition, everything. They were indeed so organised and trained that in the course of half an hour they would all have been able to take their places on board the different ships. As regards the troops alone, it is stated that 25,000 men, drawn up opposite their ships, could be completely embarked, ready to cross the Channel in 10 minutes. There are letters from Napoleon, in which he says that all they wanted was two hours' control of the Channel to bring their Army across to England. I could further quote largely from men in authority to show that it is not possible that the Navy, no matter how powerful it may be, can guarantee you against the possibilities of invasion. Moreover, my Lords, your Navy is wanted for other purposes than merely to guard your shores. You do not want your Navy to be tied to these shores. Your military forces at home ought to be so strong as to render the idea of an invasion impossible. Take the case of my noble Friend the Prime Minister, who is also Foreign Minister. He has had very difficult work to do, and I, for one, express my gratitude for the admirable way in which all that work has been carried out. Think how his hands would be thus strengthened! There is no doubt that more troops are wanted, and that is why the Army is to be increased for service, whether it be on the Afghan Frontier, in Africa, or in the Soudan; but what is the use of being strong out there if you are weak and not impregnable at home? If you had 100,000 men in the Soudan and 100,000 men in the Afridi country, you would still be weak if you were not strong and absolutely impregnable at home. My view may be a very wrong and a very mistaken one, but it is the view of statesmen and soldiers in the past, and I venture to think it is the duty of the Government to take care that we are in that position of security. If this security can be obtained without the ballot, by all means do so, but I think the ballot is the constitutional and only way of meeting the difficulty, and I believe you would meet with the support of a patriotic people—for I hold that the strongest feeling in the human breast—stronger even than the love for any living thing—is love of country. Recently, in the course of that very remarkable trial of M. Zola, a Socialist deputy, M. Jauréwhen giving evidence, made an eloquent and righteous speech, in the course of which he said— The noblest, the grandest words in any language are—Fatherland, National Defence, and National Honour, and in proportion to their grandeur should their use be limited, And I would now appeal to my noble Friend, using these same words, and say— In the name of Fatherland, National Defence, and National Honour, take care that our shores are made safe and secure. I pray him to act up to the motto of the Company of London Armourers, aid 'Make all sure.' And, in conclusion, I would beseech your Lordships, on both sides of the House, to throw aside all Party feeling on this question of home defence; and I would pray you to remember that at the present time, and in this period of the world's history, we have to deal not with foreign armies, but with armed nations—a term, I think, that ill applies to the British people, with 30,000 effective infantry Militia and a half-trained Volunteer force. I thank your Lordships for having listened to me so long.


My Lords, I am very glad the noble Earl has brought this matter up in the form of a discussion instead of moving a specific resolution as he at first intended. I have great pleasure in feeling in accord with a great deal of what has been said by the noble Earl, especially with regard to the importance of having a strong Reserve in an Army like ours, which needs rapid increase, which is raised by voluntary contribution, and which, therefore, is of a very costly character. I believe that the necessity of having a Reserve is of the utmost and of the greatest possible importance, and I think any Minister, who deals with amending or improving the Army must look carefully towards that matter. There are two forms of Army Reserve—the Army Reserve and the Militia Reserve—but they differ most materially one from the other. The men in the Army Reserve might more appropriately be described as men serving on furlough, liable to be called back in the event of anything like a big war. The Militia Reserve differs materially. The men of the Militia Reserve are, to all intents and purposes, Militiamen. They serve the same number of years, they have 28 days' training, and in all respects they are the same as Militiamen except that they receive £1 a year as a retaining fee in case they should be called upon to come up in case of war. Does any person believe that the men in the Militia do not quite realise the engagement they have entered into? I cannot credit such a thing. I believe these men thoroughly understand the engagement they have entered into, and are prepared honourably and properly to fulfil that engagement. I am informed by many Colonels of Militia that the men of the Militia Reserve would themselves volunteer in case of war, and there is a feeling—a considerable feeling—that the £1 which we give them in order to retain them is money wasted. There is, my Lords, a provision which was mentioned by the noble Earl who sits on the Cross Benches, a provision of great importance in our Army organisation, and it is that the State can accept the services of the Militia, in case of war, should those regiments volunteer and express their desire to give that service. I recollect how well the Militia behaved during the Crimean War. The garrisons were filled with regiments of Militia. They were excellent, efficient, and well-drilled regiments, and, I believe, that if the war had continued, we should have had a great many Militia regiments engaged in the campaign. With regard to the Army Reserve—I apologise, my Lords, for introducing in a Debate, which should be confined purely to the Militia, matters which belong to an Army question—but, going back for a moment to the Army Reserve, I should like to say this, that it is a Force which has been very much traduced of late in the Press, and by persons generally. Many persons praise the Army Reserve very heartily. There are others who cavil very much at the Army Reserve. The persons who praise the Army Reserve are those who are acquainted with the subject, and who themselves might be called upon, in cases of necessity, to serve with the Army Reserve; therefore, the opinion of these Military men, who are experts on the subject, and who speak so highly of the Army Reserve, must be taken as more important evidence than the opinion of those who speak of the Army Reserve without knowing much about it. The Army Reserve has, on every occasion when it has been called upon to do its duty, done quite as much, and even more, than those who most believed in it ever anticipated it would. The Army Reserve, when it was called up in 1878, came up minus four or five per cent. of its expected numbers. It came up in 1882 in a manner which far surpassed the expectations of those who anticipated the most. Therefore, my Lords, if you accept that, it carries with it short service as well. So much for the Army Reserve. Now, with regard to the Militia Reserve, it certainly cannot be regarded in the same way, and with such confidence as the Army Reserve. The amount of training the men of the Militia Reserve go through is only 28 days each year for six years, though they can engage again for four years; and consequently they cannot, when they reach the Reserves, be as efficient as Reservists who have served with the Regular Army. The Militia Reserve are the élite, of your Militia regiments, and if you take 25 per cent. of the best men out, and put them into the Line, to that extent you weaken your Militia regiments. The noble Earl proposes—and I am quite with him in his proposal—that the Militia Reserve should be kept on an establishment over and above the establishment of the Militia. I think that is a very fair proposition, but it was not, as the noble Earl tells us in his notice it was, the proposal of the Militia Committee of 1877. The noble Earl proposes to increase the establisment by 25 per cent. That is not the proposal of the Militia Committee. The proposal of that Committee was that the establishment should be diminished—that each company of 100 men should be reduced to 75, and that 25 men per company should be added to the Reserve. Unfortunately, the Militia is now 20,000 men short, and my noble Friend's proposal, surely, is not a workable one. He proposes to build a top storey before he looks to see that the ground floor is all right.


His Lordship misunderstands me. What I say is that if you had the ballot for the Militia you would have as many men as you would want.


The Notice on the Paper says nothing about the ballot for the Militia. No doubt that is a very important question, and there is a great deal to be said about it. I think myself that we could do without the ballot for the Militia. But even the ballot will not get you out of your difficulty in the least degree. Your difficulty now is to supply drafts to support the Army in India. The proposal of the noble Earl does not help you out of your difficulty. On the contrary, it seems to embarrass you exceedingly. The ballot for the Militia may fill up your ranks of Militia, but how is that going to help you in sending drafts to India? That is my objection. It seems to me a splendid proposal which the noble Earl makes, but it is not practical. Let us first see whether we cannot get the Militia up to its establishment. My noble Friend will, I am sure, agree that that is the most practical source. I believe there are many ways in which the Militia may be raised to its establishment. For one thing, you call out the Militia at the worst possible time of the year for its training—namely, in the months of May or June. That is the most inconvenient time possible to call the Militia out. Young Militiamen cannot be got to come out in. May and June, because all the hands are then wanted on the land. It would be better if you called them out in January or December, the most convenient period of the year, when the young fellows are not wanted on the land, and when the farmers would be only too pleased to get rid of them. Then these young fellows have nothing to do on the farms, and work would be very acceptable to them, as it would give them something to do. But the great difficulty is to make the Militia popular—because it is not popular, my Lords—far from popular. In the county to which I belong you cannot get any Militiamen to come to you at the training period—in the month of May or June—for the simple reason that all the hands are then wanted on the land, and that it is the time you call them out to do your training. Call them out in the winter, let them have the winter months for their training, and I believe you would find the Militia very much more popular than it is at the present time. I think this is a most useful subject for discussion, and I think we all ought to be most grateful to the Press for the way in which the Army Question has been discussed so fully as it has been. I believe that people understand much more about the Army now than they did some four months ago, and now that discussions take place in the Press the public understand the question much more than it used to, and the more it is understood the better. But even now I do not think the question is completely understood. Looking forward to the proposal which the noble Lord has promised us with regard to the amendment of the Army, and to the improvement of the condition of the soldier, from what I have read of the noble Lord's speeches, especially one which he made in Edinburgh, and others, it does seem to me that he has contrived a very remarkable way of bringing together the apparently diverging opinions of so many people. I say apparently diverging, because I believe that the country has fixed itself on to one or two things that it wishes to see done. People are quite prepared to seeing the condition of the soldier improved, and they are looking forward to seeing that done, and they are also prepared to see the Army amended, but I am quite certain that any violent change would be most unpopular and most unfortunate. What the Army wants now is progress in the system which has been adopted and which I may say has never been thoroughly carried out. I entirely oppose any revolutionary changes, such as I see occasionally proposed in another place, and it seems to me that it would be most unfortunate to add to them in the slightest degree.


My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships two minutes, and I would not venture to speak on this occasion, excepting for one distinct statement made by my noble Friend as regards the Militia being called out at an unsuitable time of the year—namely, May and June. For many years I have commanded a Militia regiment, which is always out in July, and that month seems to suit that locality very well. I know that others are brought out in April, so that we have at least four different months in the year. But what I most dissent from is the advisability of taking the two shortest months in the year—namely, December and January—because in that case, for 16 hours out of 24, the whole of the Militia would be in darkness. As I have risen I cannot help expressing the hope that this matter, which has been so ably brought forward, will meet the views of Her Majesty's Government to some degree. But I think I understood my noble Friend on the Cross Benches to say that he considers that the law as regards the ballot for the Militia still exists, though it has never been necessary to put it into practice since, I think, the Peninsular war, but I have no doubt he will be perfectly satisfied that if recruits can be got for the Militia, without the ballot, he will be better pleased. What I meant to say was that I think it would be a very strong order to begin by enforcing the ballot. Recruiting for the Militia depends a good deal upon the state of trade in the country, and that will be the case, I believe, for ever. I only rose particularly in the hope that my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War will not alter the time for the annual training of the Militia.


I am going to venture very respectfully to ask your Lordships' indulgence for a moment while I endeavour to say a word or two upon the matters which are before your Lordships to-night. I have had the privilege of serving for a good many years in the Militia force, and, furthermore, I was in that force when it underwent a considerable change, inasmuch as it was more closely allied with the line battalions of Her Majesty's Army. I was also in that force at the period when the Militia Reserve was called out to join the Regular battalions, and upon these grounds I venture most humbly to ask your Lordships' indulgence for a very few moments. What I would chiefly say is, that certain remarks have been made by my noble Relative touching certain conditions of the Militia Reserve, and also touching certain conditions of the Militiamen who are not Reserve men. In the first place he threw out some ideas that if the bounty for enlistment in the Militia Reserve were done away with it would be a saving to the British taxpayer, and would not impair materially the efficiency of the Militia. He thought that, in all probability, the whole of the men now in the Militia Reserve, and who would be called out for service under certain conditions, would all volunteer to go. But there is a very great difference between calling out the Militia Reserve under certain emergencies and embodying the whole of the Militia regiments of the country, and although on the occasion to which I referred in 1878, so far as I know, a very large number of Militia Reserve volunteered—nearly every man, I think—to go to the front, or anywhere else, still it would come to the same thing, as a considerable number of the men who go and reinforce the regular regiments, may not at that moment be in England. These men went and behaved admirably. I am also unable to see how in any way the suggestion that has fallen from my noble and gallant Relative on my left with regard to altering the times of calling out the Militia regiments in this country would secure any increased popularity to that service. He used some rather ill-omened words to the effect that it would be better for the regiments to be called out for the 28 days' training in months other than those in which they are now called out, which are months which provide a considerable amount of light to enable them to go through their training, and also are comparatively warm and occasionally dry, whereas in the months left us by my noble and gallant Friend, the winter months, this is not the case—that is hardly a proposal which is likely to form a condition of affairs calculated to render Militia service extremely popular. I am well aware that the convenience of the men forming the Militia regiments, as far as regards their comfort is always consulted by the military authorities, because I know,, from my own knowledge, that various months are chosen, generally after consultation, as far as military requirements will allow them to be, with officers commanding Militia battalions, and I myself have been out in different months in the course of my own training. I do not believe that any change is required in that particular point, nor do I believe that that is a point which at this moment has tended to render the Militia service not as popular as it might be. My Lords, I believe there are other reasons which, perhaps, tend to diminish that force, which I believe to be the most valuable and effective force that this country can possibly possess. In the first place, we Militiamen, and I say it very humbly to my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War, have some small grievances. The force thinks, and I think, with some reason, that perhaps it is a force that has somewhat gone out of consideration at the hands of the military authorities, both at the War Office and at the Horse Guards. I think every Militiaman who cares in the least for the force should be extremely grateful to the noble and Royal Duke who commands the division at Aldershot, for I believe it is due to him that we owe this extended interest in Militia affairs. He has commended the improvement in the forces, and they can be compared in a minor degree, I humbly venture to think, with some of the Line regiments. My Lords, there is one way in which you can help the recruit for the Militia forces. Give those forces an occasional pat on the back in every speech that is made by distinguished officers in Her Majesty's service, and if they will occasionally take the trouble to inquire into the constitution and position and general affairs touching the Militia forces, instead of always dealing with the other forces of the country, they will be doing a very good service to the forces of the Crown; and secondly, I believe that if officers commanding whatever camps of instruction of Militia regiments they may be sent to—for it is the good fortune of the Militia forces, as far as that is concerned, to now be taken in hand so far that many of them go to Aldershot' or to some other camp of instruction—were to see that Militia regiments are not sent out on some tremendous field-day, or some tiring night march, within 24 hours of their being brought out of the train, very likely having been put in the train within a very few hours of the regiment having assembled at its local depôt—if they will do that, they will be doing much to make the men feel that their comfort is being considered, and, furthermore, they will be generally adding to the efficacy of the regiment so treated. I have heard of cases of Militiamen going to Aldershot and elsewhere, and having had almost at once to go through tremendous hard work without having had a single drill since the year before. That will not make the men keen, and I think, if these suggestions of mine are considered and adopted, it will be doing a great deal towards popularising the Militia service. The Secretary of State for War will do his best to work up to a higher standard than now exists in Militia regiments, and I am sure, as far as I know personally—and I speak now, not as a Militia officer, but as one connected with the Volunteers—that he will receive at all hands the earnest support of every single branch of Her Majesty's service.


I venture to ask your Lordships to listen to a few words from me on this subject—a subject in which I have taken a very considerable amount of interest. With regard to the remarks of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches, I have only one thing to say. The Militia now is very much below its strength, but that is not the only thing. Last year the militia was somewhere about 24,000 below its strength, and not only that, but that strength has fallen off relatively enormously with regard to the population—that is to say, that if the proportion of militiamen to population was the same now as it was 25 years ago, the establishment of the militia would be 25,000 men more than it is now, and therefore, as regards proportion of men to population, the militia is somewhere about 40,000 or 50,000 men short of what it was 25 years ago. Again, my Lords, there is another point, beyond that of mere numbers, which is the question of compensation. My Lords, the militia consists of three classes of men. Recruits, who are going on into the militia to feed up to the extra half-inch to make up the standard—there are old soldiers, and real militiamen—really old civilian militiamen, who retired from the ranks three years ago. These men have almost entirely disappeared, and the regiments consist almost entirely now of very old soldiers, and, I am sure, amongst them are a good many men who object to remain Reserve men, or of small boys, who come into the militia, either to see if they like soldiering, or who are not up to the standard of the Army, and have come in with the idea of feeding up to the standard during the preliminary drill. The question of getting extra men is a point as to which I am afraid I cannot see how it is going to be done. At the present moment, a militiaman's job is a good one as far as I can make out. The actual value of a militiaman's work is somewhere about 18s. or 20s. a week. Well, my Lords 18s. or 20s. a week for a comparatively easy month's holiday, either at the seaside or a pleasant country town, is extremely good pay for a casual labourer, which of necessity the bulk of the militiamen must be, and unless we are going ourselves to compete, I do not see how we are to get any more young men, under the present system. The noble Lord shied at the ballot as if it were an entirely new thing, but the ballot is the law of the land, and only requires to be put on a modern footing in order to be enforced to-morrow morning, if necessary. It is rather difficult to understand these Militia Acts that have been passed, but as far as I can make out the duty of enforcing the ballot still exists, and rests with the Lord Lieutenant of the County. Since these County Council Acts have been passed there have been carved a certain number of what are called administrating counties out of the original counties,, but the authorities of these counties have no power to enforce the ballot, therefore I would implore the noble Marquess if it is not intended to put the ballot into force, that an Act should be passed putting the application of the ballot on a proper footing, in order that the thing may not be done in a hurry when we are going to war, because we never have, since we have been a nation, been able to fight a foe without the aid of compulsory service, with the sole exception of the Crimean War, and, therefore, I am convinced, in my own humble opinion, that we should hardly be at war with a European nation before we should be obliged to apply compulsory service, both to the Army and the Navy. Again, therefore, I say that I hope the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, will see his way to bring in some short Bill so as to put the ballot on a proper footing.


My Lords, it is very difficult on entering upon this discussion to avoid referring to the great question of Army Re-organisation, which will be so soon before your Lordships' House; but I think it is important to avoid dealing with that question till it comes before us as a Bill. I think we have rather wandered from the exact terms of the noble Lord's notice. He would call attention to the national importance of maintaining the Militia force at its established strength, and of the Militia Reserve being, as intended by its originator, the late General Peel, and as recommended by the Militia Committee of 1877, borne in excess of the Militia establishment. Now, the Committee to which he refers of 1877 was the Committee of which Colonel Stanley was the Chairman, and which took the evidence of General Peel, to whom the noble Lord referred; and in reading the evidence of General Peel, which was very important, and given at considerable length, it is quite clear that General Peel was referring to the Reserve which he himself had recommended, which was not, strictly speaking, a Militia Reserve at all, but which was to consist of soldiers who had served in the Army, and who were to be taken from regiments coming home from foreign service, and which were in excess of the Home Establishment, and it was hoped that they would get civilian employment, and would join the Militia, and thus form a Reserve, which was to be a Military Reserve, but was entirely distinct from the Militia Reserve of the present day. General Peel thought he could raise something like 30,000 men of that description. I think, as far as I can recollect, the strength of the Militia was 90,000, and he proposed to raise it up to 120,000, thus adding 30,000 men, whom he proposed to draw from the regiments that were coming home. That is what the evidence of General Peel consisted of chiefly. At the same time the Militia Act, which enacted the Militia Reserve as it at present exists, was passed in 1867, and that was also considered by the Committee of 1877, but in reading the Report of the Committee, it is impossible to help feeling that it was influenced by the evidence of General Peel, which really dealt with a Military Reserve, which he wanted to institute, and which was an entirely different thing from the Militia Reserve of the present day. But besides that there is a rather important phrase in the next paragraph but one of the Report. The paragraph says— We venture to suggest that it is not necessary to keep the Militia up to so full an establishment as at present. Experience proves that men are easily obtainable for the Militia in time of great national excitement or emergency. And then the Report goes on to say that the machinery which was in existence—that is the ballot—would in the opinion of the Committee be quite sufficient in cases of national emergency to bring up the Militia to its full establishment. I listened with great interest to what the noble Lord said concerning the ballot. My own impression is that it would be very unpopular. It is a very near approach to conscription, and with the growing feeling of independence which exists in the class from which recruits are drawn, it would not at the present moment at all do to enforce it. The British public sees its short service soldiers who are so much criticised victorious all over the world, and does not see why it should accept a measure which would interfere with certain interests, though, perhaps, very little indeed with its social happiness. I myself look upon the ballot as a most important reserve to the Militia. I think it is impossible for a country perpetually to live up to Military establishments on a very large scale. A great deal of the military power of every country at the present day is dependent upon the power of expansion of its military forces, and I think our Government possesses very considerable powers of expansion, though they have been severely criticised lately, and that the ballot ought not to be put in force without some strong reason, though if it were put in force I believe it would bring the Militia up to its full establishment, and the Volunteers too. You must recognise the powers that the Government have. The ballot is one of those powers, and I believe also that the old local Militia Act has never been repealed, and that produced something like 240,000 men at the beginning of the century. But until the country is very hard pressed, I see no reason for attempting to put the Militia Ballot into force. I think I have referred to the most important part of the noble Lord's remarks, and though a discussion such as this affecting the military position of the country, is of great value, it would appear to me hardly necessary at present to pursue the subject further.


My Lords, I think the noble Earl on the Cross Benches, and the speakers who followed him, certainly consulted the convenience of the House by endeavouring to limit this discussion to the particular question dealt with in the Notice. I have no doubt that before the present Session of Parliament is over we shall have many opportunities of considering questions affecting the strength and organisation of the Army. It will before long be the duty of Her Majesty's Government to submit to Parliament proposals in regard to those matters. It seems to me that a discussion on those proposals now would be premature, and would lead to no useful results. I say that without, in the least wishing to quarrel with one or two slight digressions into the region of Army organisation of which one or two noble Lords were guilty, and I must say I heard with great pleasure the testimonial given by Lord Wantage to the great value of the Army Reserve—a military resource to which I, for one, attach the utmost importance. Although I am not able to agree with all that fell from the noble Earl who spoke first, I am bound to say that he seemed to me to describe quite accurately the place which the Militia fills in the military system of this country. That system rests, as he told your Lordships, upon the broad principle that the Crown has the right to require every citizen of this country, if necessary, to bear his part in the defences of the United Kingdom. That is a liability which has, no doubt, remained dormant for a great many years, but it is, none the less, a real liability, and a liability which I trust we shall never allow ourselves to lose sight of, and I do not think we have any excuse for losing sight of it because, as I think was indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, it requires a special Act of the Legisture every year to suspend the operation of the old Acts upon which the enforcement of the ballot depends. If that suspension were not continued the ballot would at once automatically come into force. It is, of course, to a certain extent true, as was observed, that the machinery for setting the ballot in motion is of somewhat ancient date, and would, in all probability, require revision, but the machinery exists, and my impression is that it would take very little to suit it to present requirements. The quota which is at present fixed is a quota of 120,000 private Militiamen, and that quota is apportioned amongst the different countries of the United Kingdom. It is, of course, perfectly true that since the date of the Order in Council which fixed that quota the population of this country has very largely increased, and its distribution has undergone very great changes; and if we were to have resort to the ballot we should, in the first place, have to consider what the total number of men we might require should be, and how that total should be distributed over different portions of the United Kingdom. I think Lord Raglan was slightly in error when he expressed his view that it was the Lord Lieutenant who had to enforce the ballot. The ballot would be enforced by the Crown on the advice of Parliament, but the local machinery, and that is probably what he meant, would be set in motion by the Lord Lieutenants and the Deputy Lieutenants of the counties. Now, my Lords, I am certainly not going to tell your Lordships that, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, it is impossible to look forward to a time when, in some shape or other, this country may be driven to compulsory service. I am bound to say that every other military power in Europe resorts to compulsion in some form, and it will be a question how long it will be within our power to remain singular in that respect. Our military burdens do not diminish—they might, some day or another, become in-intolerable, and, even with the increased inducements which we hope to offer to recruits, the time may come when even those inducements may fail in bringing to the ranks of the Army a sufficient number of men of the quality that we desire to obtain. But, my Lords, what I have to state to your Lordships to-night is that, in our opinion, the time is not yet come for entertaining the proposal of the noble Lord. I am not going now to attempt to prophesy. The future of recruiting is extremely obscure. Up to the present time, we have not failed in keeping the Army full. During the last year we have, on the contrary, been successful in engaging a very large number of recruits. Our trouble has been occasioned, not by our inability to get the men, but by a large efflux of men from the Army, which has been taking place concurrently with the large influx of recruits. My Lords, it is an open secret, I think, that we hope, by changes in the pay of the soldier and in the condition of his service, to offer greater attractions to the population from which we draw our recruits than we have yet offered, and, until the effect of that experiment has been tried, it would certainly be premature to say that there was no prospect of our obtaining the necessary number of soldiers for the Army. I listened to what the noble Earl on the Cross Benches said, with regard to the reluctance of the people of this country to accept compulsory service, and I cannot help thinking that he greatly underrates the aversion with which any proposal of that kind is regarded. I think my noble Friend on the Back Benches, was nearer the mark when he spoke of the general suspicion and dislike with which that idea is received. I am a little surprised that the noble Earl on the Cross Benches should be the advocate of compulsion, because, unless I am mistaken, he is the President of an association, which is called the Liberty and Property Defence League, a league which was formed out of a special solicitude for the personal freedom of the subjects of Her Majesty, and I cannot conceive a greater restraint upon personal freedom than compulsory service in any shape or form. My Lords, my impression is that compulsion, in the modified form, in which the noble Earl proposes it, would be greatly resented, and that it would be absolutely out of the question if we were to attempt it merely for the purpose of adding 20,000 or 30,000, or, for the matter of that, 50,000 men to the Militia. The noble Earl in the year 1883, I believe, carried a Motion in this House in favour of a ballot. The House was a small House, and the majority was not a large one, and I believe nothing came of the Division; but it seems to me that the case at this moment is certainly not one whit stronger than it was in 1883, when the noble Earl carried his Motion. The Army is certainly stronger than it was in those days. Well, then, what about the Militia? We have been told that the Militia is largely below its strength. That is quite true, but it is not a new thing. The Militia in 1883, when the noble Earl carried his Motion, was 23,000 below its establishment. It is 20,000 below its establishment at the present moment. But remember it has stood steadily at that, or, at any rate, the average has stood somewhere about 20,000 ever since the time the noble Earl carried his Motion. Now this deficiency in the number of Militiamen does not fill me with quite so much alarm as that with which it fills the noble Earl. There have been several references to a very important inquiry which took place in 1876, under the presidency of Colonel Stanley, the present Lord Derby, into the affairs of the Militia, I find that in that report, which is a document carrying very great weight, there is recorded the opinion of the Committee— That it is not necessary to keep the Militia up to its full establishment in time of peace. And then they so on to say— Experience proves that men are easily obtainable for the Militia in times of great national excitement or emergency. I believe those last words express a great and profound truth. I am convinced, myself, that if the time of excitement or emergency were to arise in this country, that we should find an immense number of men ready to flock to the colours, either of the Militia or of the Volunteers, or of the Regular Army, and vie with one another in their desire to undertake military service in the defence of this country. The number of men in the United Kingdom who have had a military training of some kind or another, either as Volunteers or Militiamen, or in the Regular Army, must be very large indeed, and I have always regarded that great body of more or less trained men as a great reserve, upon which, in time of emergency, we might certainly fall back. Then the noble Earl, towards the close of his remarks, said that the available number of Militiamen—actually available—would not exceed 30,000.


I did not give details, but if you take the existing force, and deduct from it all those under 19—if you deduct casualties—you will find that it does not come to above 30,000 or 40,000 in the Militia reserve.


The noble Earl deducts, in the first place, all men under 19. It is quite true that we should not send a soldier under 19 to India or the tropics, but surely a Militiaman who has gone through his training and learned to shoot, and is in his 19th year, is not a soldier whom you would cast aside as of no value at all for home defence. I therefore rather demur to that deduction. Then comes the deduction of the 30,000 Militia Reservists. The noble Earl says they would be liable to be called up for service with their Line battalions. It is quite true they might be called up if the Line battalions were sent on service on a foreign expedition, but it has been stated again and again, in the evidence of Colonel Stanley's Committee and elsewhere, that were the Militia mobilised for home defence, these Militiamen would not be called to their Line battalions, but would remain with their Militia battalions; therefore the deduction seems to me to be scarcely a fair one. Then the noble Earl proposed that the Militia Reservists should be in excess of the establishment of Militia. The noble Earl's proposal is that were we to resort to ballot to obtain the full number of men, the Militia Reserve should be outside the establishment of Militia; but until we resort to the ballot, and while the Militia remains below its establishment, it would be merely adding 30,000 men to the existing deficit. There was one other point the noble Earl touched. He spoke of the competition of the Militia with the Line for recruits. Now, that is a point dealt with by Colonel Stanley's Committee, and I feel that the authority of the report is much greater than any I can pretend to give. Therefore I will quote the passage.


Was it a War Office Committee?


Amongst those who signed the Report were the Duke of Buccleuch, a Colonel of Edinburgh Militia, Lord Exeter, Lord Limerick, also a Colonel of Militia. It is, therefore, an authoritative and independent report. In their Report, Colonel Stanley's Committee said— The evidence proves conclusively that a large proportion of the men joining the Militia are of a class who would not in ordinary times enlist in the Regular Army. We therefore consider erroneous the belief which has been expressed to the effect that the recruiting of the Militia interferes with that for the Line. Many men join the Militia who would not in peace time care to be soldiers, and who would otherwise be lost to the military service. Many also join the Army from the Militia service who would probably not have enlisted originally, but who have acquired in the Militia an inclination for soldiering. I think that really disposes of the noble Earl's notion that bad results follow from the competition of the Line with the Militia. During the course of the discussion several suggestions, to which I listened with great interest and attention, were made with regard to the treatment of the Militia by the War Office, and I should like to notice one or two of them. In the first place, there was a complaint as to the time of training. Now, as to that, I am able to say that the military authorities desire, as far as possible, to consult the convenience of the Militia battalions in fixing the time of the annual training, and it is within my own knowledge, since I have been at the War Office, that the time of training has not infrequently been altered in consequence of the representations made to us by the Colonels of Militia regiments. But, of course, there is this to be remembered. All the friends of the Militia Force desire, and are right in desiring, that the Militia should be, as frequently as possible, brigaded with Regular troops, and I do not think that anything has done more to promote the efficiency of the Militia than the manner in which, of late years, Militia and Line regiments have been engaged in military exercises together in camps of instruction or at manœuvres. If that is true, it is quite clear that you must call out your Militia at the time when manœuvres take place, or when camps of instruction are going on, and that, of course, places to a certain extent a limitation upon the discretion of the military authorities. I confess I rather shuddered at the suggestion that the training should take place in the most inclement months of the year, and I saw in my imagination the kind of demands that would come to the War Office afterwards for compensation for damage to uniforms and accoutrements. I think I have dealt with most of the points mentioned. I certainly do not take by any means a despondent view of the condition of the Militia force, and I should like, if such a thing coming from me could have any value, to administer to it one of those pats on the back which the noble Marquess below me desires that the Militia should receive. I believe that it has gained greatly in efficiency in recent years. It is now armed with the same weapon as the Regular Army; it is learning to use that weapon with increasing success, and the shortness of its numbers, as we know, is not a new thing. That is the feeling with which the Office which I have the honour to represent regards the Militia. For the present we see no occasion for introducing the element of compulsion in any shape, but we recognise that the right of enforcing service in the Militia is a very valuable reserve of power—a reserve with which we shall not on any account part, and which would enable us in an emergency, not only to raise the Militia to its present establishment, but to add to it a very great number of men who would form an invaluable reserve of power should the safety of this country be ever seriously imperilled.


I do not know whether I may be allowed to say a word or two now. [The LORD CHANCELLOR nodded assent.] My noble Friend raised one or two points on which I should like to speak. I should like to urge upon the Government that they ought not to wait until an emergency arises before making use of the power which they possess. If you wait for an emergency you will find that it will be too late then. Mr. Cardwell, in his Bill of 1871, had 10 Clauses and 44 Provisions for preparing for this emergency. My noble Friend does not even prepare for it. It will take a year before you can get the men when the emergency arises. Mr. Cardwell would have got the men in six weeks under his Bill, but the whole thing dropped. My noble Friend says we are keeping this reserve power, and will not exercise it. The fact is, the Government is afraid to put the ballot in force for the Militia, thinking that it would make them unpopular, and that they would be turned out of office. I believe that is a delusion. I deny that the ballot is unpopular, and I can speak from personal experience. I have spoken, in favour of it in Westminster Hall, with a mass of all sorts of people in it; I have spoken in favour of it elsewhere in London, to artisans, as Member in my own county, at Halifax, and at Liverpool, and I never heard a single voice raised against it. I think the Governments of the day—I don't care which side they sit upon—do gross injustice to the patriotism of the people of this country by saying that this scheme would be unpopular, and that they would turn Governments out for putting the ballot into force. My noble Friend would, I venture to think, be doing a great service to the State if he took some action to make our country safe at home. And, as to the value of youths of 19 as soldiers, if such a thing was to occur as a foreign army landing on our shores, do you suppose, for one moment, that it would be composed of untrained men? Certainly not. They would be the best men the country could get. They would not be young men of 19. You do not send boys of 19 to protect your pheasants. I say it is monstrous for us to send boys of 19 to compete with full-grown trained soldiers.

[The subject then dropped.]