HL Deb 19 June 1900 vol 84 cc413-5


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(The Earl of Hopetoun.)


I do not rise to offer any opposition to this Bill. In fact, I desire in every possible way, not only in the interests of the Admiralty but of the Reserve men themselves, to give facilities for the modification of any very strict rules with reference to the calling out of the Reserve. When this Bill was introduced elsewhere several objections were taken to it. One objection—I do not think there was any foundation for it, but I should like to be assured on the point—was that there was an intention, by the Bill, to dispense with the notification, on the part of Her Majesty, of the necessity for mobilising the Reserve when the powers were put in force. I trust that is not so. I do not possess a legal mind, but I really cannot see how the necessity for this Bill arises. We heard the other night from the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War that it often happened that some regiments wanted their Reservists of the Second Division long before other regiments wanted the same Reservists, but that under the law as it at present stands a regiment which is deficient in respect of it3 Reservists cannot call up any one of its Second Division Reservists until all the other regiments who might not require them have called up the Reservists of the same class. And the noble Marquess added that, in order to enable one Line regiment to get the men it wanted, the War Office were obliged to call up the whole of the remainder of the Reservists of that Division, and, as they did not require them, to send them away on furlough. No doubt, to avoid a thing of that sort, it is desirable to give similar powers to the Admiralty; but when I turn to the Act which regulates the calling out of the Reserve it appears to me that the powers given in this Bill already exist. Clause 4 of the Act gives the Admiralty power— to order and direct that the Volunteers under this Act, or so many or such part of them as Her Majesty may deem necessary, shall be called in to actual service. It may be said that they are all called out for a specified time—three years; but in Clause 14 of that Act there is a power given to the Admiralty to "discharge Volunteers raised under this Act." I therefore do not see why it is necessary to give these new powers under this Bill. If, however, according to legal interpretation, such a necessity exists, I should not for a moment wish to oppose the Bill; but as there is some doubt on the subject in the minds of people who are interested in it I would ask the noble Earl who has introduced the Bill to satisfy me on that point, as well as the first one to which I referred.


I think I can give an assurance to the noble Earl on the first point. There is no intention of interfering with the Proclamation in any way. With regard to the second point raised by the noble Earl, I hold in my hand a very strong opinion from the Law Officers of the Crown that the alterations proposed are absolutely necessary. If the noble Earl will allow the Bill to pass its Second Reading I will undertake to again confer with the Law Officers of the Crown and place their further opinion before him at some future date.

On Question, agreed to. Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House.