HL Deb 19 July 1904 vol 138 cc388-90

My Lords, I rise to ask whether His Majesty's Government will give facilities, if necessary, for further discussion on the new Army scheme before the conclusion of the present session. I am aware that the noble Lord opposite, Lord Burghclere, proposes on Thursday next to call attention to the Memorandum issued by the Secretary of State. I venture to think that most of your Lordships will agree with me that until the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War has explained to us more fully the details of the scheme it would be useless for any of us to discuss it. I have, therefore, been deputed by several other military Members of your Lordships' House to ask His Majesty's Government if they can see their way to granting this request by fixing a day later on, before the end of the session, so that we may be able to discuss this most important subject.


My Lords, I confess that when I saw my noble friend's Notice on the Paper I was a little puzzled as to its precise significance, and I am not quite sure that the explanation he has given us has entirely removed the obscurity which clings to it. We are, I understand, on Thurday next, to have a debate initiated by the noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite, Lord Burghclere, upon the scheme of Army reform which has been put forward by the Secretary of State for War, and I imagine that the debate, which no doubt will be a prolonged one, will give considerable opportunity to any noble Lords who desire to offer criticisms upon my right hon. friend's proposals. But supposing that the outcome of that debate did not prove sufficient for my noble friend's purpose, I take it that there is nothing in the rules of your Lordships' House which would prevent him on any subsequent day from initiating a discussion upon any particular points with regard to which he required further information. Your Lordships' time is not so fully taken up that that is impossible, nor are the rules of the House so inelastic as to preclude a succession of military debates. Indeed, on former occasions we have often had many debates on the same project of Army reform. I think, therefore, my noble friend may rest assured that nothing is likely to happen which will prevent him and his friends from bringing before the House any matters connected with the Secretary of State's scheme which they may desire to discuss.


My Lords, as I heard in conversation last night a good deal on this subject, I should like to say a few words. I quite agree with what the noble Marquess has just said. On Thursday my noble friend beside me will introduce the subject by calling attention to the very useful Memorandum issued by the Secretary of State for War with regard to the reorganisation of the Army. We do not know at present how far that will lead us. I hope that we shall elicit a very full explanation on this matter from the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War, and, no doubt, from the noble Marquess himself; but, until we sea how far the debate extends, it is exceedingly difficult for His Majesty's Government to say whether any further discussion will be necessary. If, however, the noble Viscount opposite finds that there are particular questions not answered, or particular points that ought to be further discussed, it will be within his power to raise those questions later on. I must say I agree with what the noble Marquess the Foreign Minister has s aid, that until we see how the debate to be initiated on Thursday proceeds it is impossible to say whether another day will be necessary, and if it should prove necessary the noble Viscount or any other noble Lord is perfectly entitled to again raise the question.