§ *THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH
My Lords, I rise to ask the Secretary of State for War if he is now in a position to state the conditions to which applicants for a portion of the grant for Volunteer ranges will have to conform. I must apologise for again raising this subject of ranges, but it is somewhat an important one, and as I understand that now there is a further sum of £100,000 to be allocated, I should like if possible to obtain from the noble Marquess certain information as to the conditions which will have to be conformed to before applicants receive a portion of the grant; I want to know how applications are to be made, to whom they are to be made, and the conditions to which applicants will have to conform. Perhaps I may be allowed to refer back to the former sum of £40,000 voted last year, because I think I shall be able to explain the difficulty in which those who desire to obtain a portion of the grant are placed. The noble Marquess has told us that out of that £40,000 a sum of £35,000 has already been allocated. I believe I was the first to raise the question in this House, some twelve months ago, and I extremely regret to say that the only battalion in Staffordshire which has not received a portion of the grant is the battalion in which I am personally interested. The other day I received a letter from the Colonel pointing out the fact that this is the only battalion that has not received a 1099 portion of the grant, and stating that he could not understand why that is so, and also stating that he has received no communication in response to his application. He also points out, and I think he is perfectly right, that his battalion is really one that deserves, perhaps, more than any other battalion, some little assistance, because his range was compulsorily closed he took time by the forelock, and with considerable difficulty obtained another range, which he has been engaged since that time in making and equipping. He has collected all the money he could in the neighbourhood, and he says he is still £400 short of what he wants. Now, this is not a case of an old I range. I believe one of the conditions laid down as regards the distribution of this Vote of £40,000 was that no money would be given to those who were already in possession of ranges, but I would point out that in this particular case the loss of the old range necessitated the provision of a new one, and it could not, therefore, come under the description of an old range, because it was not made or equipped. Therefore, I think that a man who takes the initiative, and as soon as he possibly can obtains a range to supply the deficiency is one who ought to have assistance. Of that £40,000, as I say, £35,000 has already been distributed. I may in passing suggest to the noble Marquess that the remaining £5,000 is amply sufficient to satisfy my immediate requirements. I do not know whether it is too late, but I would venture to make this suggestion. The point I particularly want to emphasise is the fact that this unfortunate colonel has done all he can to supply the deficiency. Whether he applied to the wrong place or whether he did not conform to the rules or not, or what is the reason why he receives no assistance, he does not know, because he has received no communication in response to his application. This seems to me to be a gross act of discourtesy on the part of somebody. I have the honour of being Lord Lieutenant of the county, and I think it is part of my duty to see that the colonels of Volunteers in my county are treated with proper respect. I believe Mr. Balfour has said that the War Office is in one respect the most splendid institution in the world, because whatever goes wrong it is impossible to put your finger on anybody who is responsible; but if the noble Marquis will privately inform me who has been 1100 guilty of this gross act of discourtesy and put me into direct communication with him, I should be very much obliged. I do think it is hard on a man who has had nothing to guide him, who. does not know-to whom he is to apply or where to make the application, that when he makes application he receives no answer. It seems to me a very simple matter that when the communications are sent round the conditions to be conformed to should be put before the applicants, so that those who apply may know what conditions they have to conform to and to whom to make the application. I would just point out that this £40,000 which was voted last year was public money voted by Parliament. It was intended for a specific purpose, and was not, I am sure, intended to give an opportunity to the War Office to have a game of hide and seek with the Volunteer colonels throughout the country. I do trust that when this new allocation is made this information will be given to those who are principally interested.
*THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Marquess of LANSDOWNE)
I think my noble friend has a little misapprehended the procedure which is followed in the distribution of these grants to Volunteer corps. Let mo tell him exactly how the facts stand. We had in the first, place to allocate the £40,000, which was not voted by Parliament, but which was provided in the Military Works Loans Bill. Of that £40,000, £35,000 or thereabouts has,. as he truly observes, been distributed. As to that distribution our instructions to the local military authorities were that they should give the first place to those corps which were as yet unprovided with ranges. The result of that was to exclude for the time every corps which had already provided itself with a range. In that way we got rid of £35,000 out of £40,000. I believe the remaining £5,000 is already earmarked for a similar purpose, and I am afraid I cannot promise to act on the rather unblushing suggestion of my noble friend that the balance should be given to him.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
With regard co the £35,000 there was certainly no "hide and seek," because I 1101 have laid on the Table of the House a statement of the manner in which the money was distributed. I now come to the further sum which I mentioned the other day as £100,000. I am glad to be able to tell my noble friend that, thanks to various circumstances with which I need not trouble your Lordships, we shall have a rather larger sum (probably about £130,000) to spend in this manner. After setting aside what will be required for the Metropolitan Volunteers, the remainder of that sum will be distributed to corps which have already, at their own cost, provided themselves with ranges. I quite agree with what my noble friend said, that those corps which took time by the forelock, and underwent considerable sacrifices in order to equip themselves with proper ranges, ought not to be left out in the cold, and they will not be left out in the cold in this distribution. They will receive, according to the circumstances of the corps, grants proportionate to the expenditure from corps funds, grants which will probably amount to about half or one-third of their own expenditure. Then as to the procedure, my noble friend evidently thinks that in these cases the War Office waits for applications from different corps, and makes its selection among the most clamorous applicants. That is not at all what is done. What has been done in regard to these distributions is this. The general officer of the district is instructed to send round an official who is known as the district inspector of musketry, and that official goes round to every corps in the district, whether an application has been received from it or not. He makes his report upon the position of the corps in regard to range accommodation, and gives advice as to the amount of assistance which ought, in his opinion, to be granted. These recommendations are collected and are sent up in a schedule to the War Office, where they are examined by a Committee known as the Ranges Committee. By that Committee they are sifted and revised, and upon the recommendations of that Committee the final distribution takes place. My noble friend will, therefore, see that it is not a question of instructing an applicant how he is to proceed. The corps have to wait until the local military authorities come to them and examine into their position, and report upon that position to the War Office. It may be that in the particular case to which my noble friend referred, 1102 an application was made and left unanswered, but he does not tell me by whom or to whom it was made. If it was not answered, or if there was any discourtesy shown, I regret it very much, and if my noble friend will give me the particulars I shall be glad to make inquiry, but I wish my noble friend to understand clearly that the corps' prospect of obtaining a share of this money does not depend on the fact of its having made an application to the War Office.
§ *THE EARL OF DARTMOUTH
I quite understand that, but I think it would be well if it was generally understood what the procedure is. Those who have been anxious to obtain a share of this grant have been under the impression that it was for them to make the application. Would it not be possible to let the conditions be generally known? I do not think that it is generally known by commanding officers of corps that it is not for them to make the application. I continually get letters asking me what course ought to be followed in order to obtain assistance.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I think the best corrective of that statement will be found in the procedure which is on the point of being followed at this moment, and which I endeavoured to describe just now. This officer will go round from corps to corps, and if the corps will possess their souls in patience for a few days or a few weeks, each corps will be visited by the inspector, and will be made thoroughly aware of what is intended.
§ House adjourned at half-past Five of the clock, to Thursday next, half-past Ten of the clock.