My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government what are the necessary qualifications for a commandership on the active list of the Royal Naval Reserve, and what is to be the full complement of Royal Naval Reserve officers of this grade; whether it is intended to act upon the recommendation of the Naval Reserves Committee that the number of Royal Naval Reserve executive officers be increased, and, if so, to what extent; also, whether, if making such an increase, some relaxation cannot be made in regard to the present age limit, in order that the services of many desirable officers of the merchant service who otherwise would be ineligible may be availed of. I trust that the noble Earl the First Lord of the Admiralty will see his way to extend the age limit a little. There are very many able officers in the merchant service who are anxious to join the Royal Naval Reserve, but who find it impossible to attain the necessary qualifications before the present age limit. A slight extension would enable them to do so. Before resuming my seat I should like to inform my noble friend how highly appreciated by the officers of the Reserve is his action in instituting the new rank of commander.
§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (The Earl of SELBORNE)
The qualifications for the promotion of ieutenants, Royal Naval Reserve, to the rank of commander in the Reserve are as follows:—(a) The officer must have been through twelve months naval training 636 and have received very good reports for conduct and ability; (b) he must have held command of a British ocean-going passenger steamer of not less than 4,000 tons gross for a period of three years; (c) he must have ten years seniority as a lieutenant, Royal Naval Reserve; (d) he must be under fifty-five years of age if he held a commission as lieutenant on 8th February, 1896,or under fifty years of age if he were promoted to lieutenant with seniority subsequent to that date. The Board of Admiralty reserve to themselves the power of promoting officers to the rank of commander, Royal Naval Reserve, if they are considered deserving of advancement on account of specially good service, although they may not have all the necessary qualifications as defined above. The maximum number of commanders, Royal Naval Reserve, is fixed by Order in Council of 7th March, 1904, at fifty. The Treasury were informed, however, that this number would not be reached for a considerable period, as it was intended to promote fifteen lieutenants only during the current year, and in future years only specially desirable and deserving candidates. The number for the present financial year—fifteen—now has been completed. Of the lieutenants promoted, fourteen possessed the qualifications laid down above, while the other officer was promoted for especially good service, although not possessing all the qualifications referred to. The Naval Reserves Committee recommended that the establishment of lieutenants, sub-lieutenants, and midshipmen, Royal Naval Reserve, should be increased considerably, the increase to be completed by the year 1909. After consideration of the Committee's recommendation, the Treasury were informed that their Lordships proposed to consider the subject afresh before recommending a definite establishment of Royal Naval Reserve officers, to which entries should be adjusted in the intervening years. In the meantime power was obtained to raise the number of executive officers from 1,550 to 1,600, the addition to include officers of the new rank of commander. The present age limits were very deliberately chosen, and I do not think there is any possibility of their being extended. The fact is there are 637 many more applicants for these commissions than there are commissions to give away—a very happy state of affairs, but one that necessarily involves the result that many deserving officers are unable to obtain them. An extension of the age would only still further enlarge the field of selection and give rise to still further disappointments.